Founded in 1967, Gaborone United Sporting Club is undoubtedly one of the oldest teams in football history. In its maiden season at its formative stages, the club nicknamed ‘Moyagoleele’ won the Botswana Premier League title, wrestling it from the hands of Notwane FC.
Records show that from its toddler stages, the club whose colours are red and white was on course to write their own story on the landscape of home football. It is augured that the team was formed by stalwarts of the country’s longest ruling party, BDP. No wonder, the club inherited the party’s red and white colours.
Formed two years after Township Rollers came to life, Gaborone United, observers say, chose red and white to depict a new life on the football spectrum. Politically, red represents radicalism and revolt, and while it not indicated anyway in history that United ‘s formation came from Rollers, it is more safer to believe that, their colours painted a picture of a new life and, of course boldness.
This boldness was soon to be transformed into dominance as the team won both coca- cola cups and league title in early 60s, 70s and 80s. To date, GU has won the FA cup 6 times, and repeated the same number when clinching league titles- dominance. Their last league title was in 2009, the years during which Botswana football was in its transformation phase. It was during the same period that multi-million Lebanese business man, Nikholas Zakhem came in as the club‘s financier.
However, throughout the last couple of years that followed, the red and white regalia of GU shirts no longer represented dominance and life. In the eight years since winning their 6th premier league title in 2009, they have gone through 11 coaches, and finished behind champions Township Rollers and Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
It is not difficult to identify what precisely has gone wrong, though the causes are so manifold they are easier to locate with grapeshot than with a pinpoint. The club relied heavily on the genius of prolonging veteran players’ careers. Amongst the winning team, they were Bashin Modisaotsile, Wellengton Maposa and Kenny Ledikwe, all veterans of the game. But when they were ditched by Sithole’s successor, Manfred Chabinga, it was clear that succession plan was tinkered with. A winning coach was not allowed to lead the team in CAF competitions.
It is certainly not only the trophies that are missed at the team that was famously known to be emanating from Ditakaneng-a long standing location of Gaborone in Naledi , but also Sithole's character and personality. He had a strong and intimate relationship with the players, and it left them feeling empty when he parted ways with them for BMC. When lifting up his silverware during United’s glory days, the late Joseph Phetogo (May his soul rest in peace) who captained the side said Sithole was the best coach ever. And indeed, he was, should it be remembered that he drove Centre Chiefs to its first league trophy in its many years without registering a defeat, a year before he landed his post with Gaborone United.
Undoubtedly one could not underestimate the impact he had on both G.U and Chiefs’ players, and this has made life virtually impossible for every man who has succeeded him. If the Sithole effect has definitely been a contributing factor to G.U’s demise, most of the blame still has to go to its committee as a whole. A series of mistakes in hiring and axing coaches as well as signing players have led “The Reds” down a dark path which will be difficult to escape from.
While the team managed to win the Mascom Top 8 competition in 2013, the same problems still prevailed. They started selling their best assets– Tebogo Sembowa, Noah Maposa, Moemedi Moatlhaping and Ronald Chikomo – and tried to mask their strategy by signing big name players with only a few miles left on the clock and no re-sale value, among them Gaopatwe Seosenyeng, Kgololo Kgogobi and Alphonso Modisaotsile. Despite a huge churn of players, systemic reform at youth and academy level, the hard work of elite development and fostering club culture, was avoided in preference for the quick fix.
Another cup glory- the Coca Cola cup was achieved through the same spells of firing and hiring of new coaches. At this time, it was Philemon Makhwengwe who was at its helm. On a positive note though, the club was the first to traverse the road of professionalism. A committee that comprised of Dr Nkomazana, Tymon Katholo, and Herbert Letsebe among others were responsible for helping the team traverse the evasive route.
Fast forward to now; the club is bruised and caught up in identity crisis tussles. The gleaming trophy rooms are now but a constant reminder of failure and the desperate need for a fresh start. There are unconfirmed reports that the team, deeply troubled by lack of finances, is sponsored by a ghost company that has occupied a large share of the shirt space. This season is no different, the team is slowly moving towards the end of another trophy less run while Argentinean coach Rudolph Zapata’s journey with the team nears an end.
Debswana injected P40 million into sports
Debswana, the leading diamond mining company in Botswana, has made a significant investment in sports development over the past five years. With a total expenditure of over P40 million, the company has demonstrated its commitment to promoting and supporting sports in the country. This was revealed by Andrew Motsomi, the Managing Director of Debswana, during the BNSC annual sponsors night.
The funds were disbursed to various National Sport Associations (NSAs) to aid in their preparations for regional and international sporting competitions. The Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) organized the sponsors night to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of businesses and individuals to the development of sports in Botswana.
Debswana was honored with the platinum award, the highest recognition given by the BNSC, for its outstanding contribution of over P4 million to sports development in the financial year 2021-2022. In his keynote address, Motsomi highlighted the challenging global economic climate, with many companies implementing cost-cutting measures due to the effects of COVID-19, geopolitical challenges, and elevated inflation. Despite these challenges, Debswana remains unparalleled in its commitment to sports development.
Motsomi emphasized the importance of sports in the economy and the nation’s pride, as outlined in Vision 2036. He urged the BNSC and NSAs to adopt innovative and sustainable methods of commercializing sports in Botswana. This includes monetizing initiatives such as promoting athletic events internationally to optimize the sport value chain.
One notable contribution by Debswana in 2022 was its partnership with the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA). The company announced a P9 million sponsorship for the BAA, spanning three years from 2022 to 2025. The BAA will receive P3 million annually to prepare for major events such as the Africa Championships, World Championships, Commonwealth Games, World Junior Championships, and the road to the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Debswana also sponsored the Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) awards with a generous amount of P412, 000. The partnership between Debswana and BoBA began in 2010, with the sponsorship steadily increasing over the years. The mining company’s support for grassroots development was evident in its P6 million sponsorship for the Re Ba Bona Ha sports development program, spread over three years from 2022 to 2024.
Football has also received significant support from Debswana. The company’s sponsorship has strengthened the Botswana Football Association’s (BFA) capacity to run leagues, organize tournaments, and develop grassroots programs. In the 2022/2023 season, Debswana renewed its sponsorship of the Botswana National First Division League (NFDL) with a contribution of P3.9 million.
Debswana’s contributions have played a crucial role in promoting inclusivity and gender equality in football. The company actively supports women’s football initiatives, empowering female footballers and providing them with opportunities. This commitment has led to the rise of successful women footballers in Botswana, inspiring a new generation of aspiring sportswomen.
Furthermore, Debswana demonstrated its support for the senior women’s national team by taking care of their camping needs before their maiden appearance in the 2022 WAFCON tournament in Morocco. This patriotic gesture provided the team with intensive training to prepare for the continental showpiece.
According to the BNSC, Debswana’s injection of over P40 million into sports development over the past five years showcases its unwavering commitment to promoting and supporting sports in Botswana.
The company’s contributions have benefited various sports associations, including athletics, boxing, and football, and have played a significant role in fostering inclusivity, gender equality, and national pride. Debswana’s dedication to sports development sets an example for other companies and organizations to follow, ensuring the continued growth and success of sports in Botswana.
Botswana’s Paris Olympics dream in tatters
Botswana’s dream of sending a strong contingent to the Paris Olympics in 2024 seems to be a pipedream at this point. With just eight months left until the prestigious event, many athletes are still struggling to qualify, raising concerns about the country’s representation at the world’s biggest sporting event.
Looking back at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Botswana had a team of 16 athletes competing in various sports such as athletics, swimming, judo, and boxing. It was a successful year for local sports, as multiple sporting codes secured a spot at the Olympics. However, in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which was plagued by multiple postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Botswana’s qualification numbers slightly decreased, with only 14 athletes representing the country in athletics, weightlifting, boxing, and swimming.
One of the main issues facing sports development in Botswana is the neglect of certain sporting codes, particularly those involving jumps and other field events. This lack of focus on these disciplines puts the country at a disadvantage when it comes to ensuring a larger number of representatives at events like the Olympics.
In terms of athletics, Botswana has a strong track record of producing top-quality athletes. Letsile Tebogo, for example, won two medals (silver and bronze) at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Tebogo, along with Bayapo Ndori, Leungo Scotch, Busang Collen Kebinatshipi, and Tshepiso Masalela, have already qualified for the upcoming Olympics. However, the female athletes and others are still waiting for their chance to secure a spot in the 2024 calendar.
The situation is even more dire in boxing, as the local pugilists had a difficult outing at the Paris 2024 Boxing Africa Qualifiers held in Senegal in September. Most of the boxers were eliminated in the preliminary rounds, with only Keamogetse Kenosi making it to the quarterfinals before being knocked out. With two more qualification tournaments scheduled, there is still a chance for redemption, but the Botswana Boxing Association is awaiting the Technical Team Report to determine the final list of competitors.
Weightlifting has also faced its fair share of challenges, with Botswana’s first-ever weightlifting Olympian, Magdeline Moyengwa, forced to quit the sport due to unforeseen circumstances. The lack of funds has been a major setback for the weightlifting federation, making it difficult to secure a spot at the Olympics. Currently, only Alphius Kagiso is expected to compete at the Africa Senior Championships and the World Cup, which are crucial for Olympic qualification.
Judo, unfortunately, seems to be in a poor state as well. The lack of funds and inactivity have prevented judokas from competing and gaining the necessary points for qualification. Despite having potential athletes such as Tumiso Phuthego, Botho Babutsi, Lorraine Pulamoeng, and Tirelo Lekoko, the Botswana Judo Federation has been unable to secure the funds needed for them to participate in qualifying tournaments.
In conclusion, Botswana’s dream of sending a strong team to the Paris Olympics in 2024 is currently a pipedream. The lack of qualification in various sporting codes, including boxing, weightlifting, and judo, is a cause for concern. The neglect of certain disciplines and the financial challenges faced by sports federations have hindered the development and participation of athletes. However, there is still hope for redemption with upcoming qualification tournaments, and the athletes and federations remain optimistic about their chances of securing a spot at the Olympics.
BAA nominated for Member Federation Award
The Botswana Athletics Association has been nominated as one of the six finalists for the Member Federations Award at the upcoming World Athletics Awards 2023. This recognition is a testament to the association’s outstanding work and accomplishments throughout the year, which have positively contributed to the growth and profile of the sport.
One of the association’s notable achievements in 2023 was its work with sprinter Letsile Tebogo. Tebogo, a 20-year-old athlete, emerged as a rising star in the world of athletics. As a two-time world U20 100m champion, he showcased his talent and dedication by becoming a senior world medallist. Tebogo claimed the silver medal in the 100m event and the bronze medal in the 200m event at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest. His remarkable performance made him the first African man to win a 100m medal and the first man from Botswana to win a medal in any event at the World Athletics Championships.
Tebogo’s success is a testament to the Botswana Athletics Association’s commitment to nurturing and developing local talent. By providing the necessary support and training, the association has played a crucial role in shaping Tebogo into a world-class athlete. His achievements serve as an inspiration and positive role model for aspiring athletes not only in Botswana but also across the African continent.
The Member Federations Award recognizes a Member Federation that has distinguished itself through its accomplishments and contributions to the sport. The six finalists were nominated by each of the six area associations, highlighting the exceptional work done by these federations.
Among the other nominees is Athletics Australia, representing Oceania. Australia had a remarkable year, hosting the World Cross Country Championships and the Maurie Plant Meeting, a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold event. Australian athletes also achieved great success at the World Athletics Championships, winning six medals, including a gold medal in the pole vault by Nina Kennedy.
Chile’s Federacion Atletica de Chile, representing South America, has made significant strides in promoting athletics in the country. Hosting the Pan American Games and organizing five World Athletics Continental Tour Challenger events, the federation has doubled athletics participation in Chile. They have also focused on training officials and developing their Kids’ Athletics program.
The Real Federacion Espanola de Atletismo, representing Europe, had a successful year with their athletes winning five medals at the World Athletics Championships. The federation introduced innovative formats and projects at national and grassroots levels, while also working towards key objectives of the World Athletics World Plan.
The Athletic Association of Thailand, representing Asia, played a crucial role in hosting the 25th Asian Athletics Championships in Bangkok. They have also established the Asian Athletics Association’s headquarters at Thammasat University, where development activities are held for the entire region. The association is actively working on developing athletics at the grassroots level and is a participant in the Kids’ Athletics program.
Lastly, USA Track & Field, representing NACAC, had an exceptional year with their athletes winning 29 medals at the World Athletics Championships. They topped the medal table and achieved championship and world records. The federation also focused on grassroots programs, coach and official development, and growing commercial revenue for the sport.
The winner of the Member Federations Award will be announced in early December as part of the World Athletics Awards 2023. Each of the nominated federations has made significant contributions to the sport of athletics and has positively impacted their respective regions. Their dedication and achievements serve as an inspiration to athletes and sports enthusiasts worldwide.