Gaborone United (GU) coach Rudolph Zapata is a man of many words but zero results in the field of play which has left GU family greatly disappointed as his messianic words at the beginning of the season gave them hope, writes KETUMILE RAMATITI.
By the end of the season The Reds’ trophy cabinet will have only gathered dust despite Zapata promising honours when he arrived last year. The only redemption left to offer would be to put GU within the Top 8 bracket. “I’m working step by step until the end. From then I will be going to do player and coach development in the USA. I think my job is going to be done to put GU in the Top 8. I wish all the GU supporters all the best,” Zapata said after the game against Mochudi Centre Chiefs three weeks ago.
Currently The Reds are on the bottom half of the league table with 29 points, an unfamiliar territory for Moyagoleele at this time of the season. The team might just miss out on the lucrative Mascom Top 8 competition for the first time since its inception in 2012. In the same tournament, Zapata’s side was eliminated in the first stage of the tournament by BDF XI.
A few months after the Argentine coach was unveiled last season he posted on his Twitter account that he would be “playing soccer not football” like others. This remark caused ruckus on the football circles as rivals argued the coach was taking jibes at them. Meanwhile The Reds family was buzzing with excitement as they believed they had found the right man for their team; they even came up with initiatives like ‘Zapata Dance’ to prepare for the prospects of a good life under the South American mentor.
After revealing these words, he again categorically stated in his social media platform, precisely Twitter, when he arrived in Botswana at the beginning of the second stanza of the league that, “I’m back to Botswana to take away both the league and the Top 8.” He went on to promise the GU family during the launch of the P2 million sponsorship from Zac Construction and Mobicel. “We will triple our work to achieve what we want,” he vowed to GU supporters on the stairs of the exquisite Chez Nicola club. As if it wasn’t enough he continued to say, “I’m going to be playing 1-10 system,” this according to the Aires Buenos born gaffer implied that he will play slumber jacket football- attack as a team and defend as a team, but was this possible?
Fast forward to now the coach is singing a different tune, “we are not going to negotiate good football, even if we lose we are not going to play like a small team.” Furthermore, he is pointing fingers at boardroom wrangles which according to him; ram the technical team ambitions. “But I am leaving soon so some people in GU are going to be happy. Real supporters understand my job. By the way my record in GU is 15-8-7,” he posted on his Twitter account in February at a time when some EXCO members blasted his tactics.
Perhaps Zapata has a point on the boardroom rumbling as sometimes players were not paid in time which led to them displaying lacklustre performance. However, his tactics wherewithal are also the reason why the team is below rookies like Security Systems and Black Forest. “Zapata is a professional but his playing style is putting him under pressure,” former player and coach Fabian Zulu posits. He further added that it will be difficult for GU to secure a top eight bracket considering the competition there.
Among the raft of changes the loud-mouthed coach brought to GU includes his ruthless parting ways with some key players in the team. Ntesang Simanyana, Edwin Olerile, Gaopatwe Seosenyeng, Kgololo Kgogobi and Mandla Mgadla were all shown the door. Some players were accused of indiscipline while others were deemed as surplus to requirements. Later on national team striker Hendrick Moyo left. Talks about his man-management deficiencies were always there, his relationship with Mpho Kgaswane (now with Baroka) had reached the nose dive according to some players talking to this paper.
His tactics has left a lot to be desired, his idea of ‘attacking as a team and defending as a team’ was never a solution nor proved to be directing the team to the right path. The likes of Kabelo Seakanyeng, Karabo Phiri and Obonwe Maome were designated positions they were not familiar with. The trio with their well-known attacking prowess were assigned to do the opposite by Zapata in his 1-10 formation. “It’s his style and it’s very difficult because it is a European style and tough for local players,” Zulu said.
His stay nonetheless has proved that he is passionate about the younger players, Tumisang Orebonye and Thatayaone Ditlhokwe are notable examples under the during the Zapata era. The Argentinian’s contract will elapse at the end of the season and it will be seen whether GU will offer him a new contract.
The negotiations involving Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) over elite league sponsorship have suffered a setback as the local brewer this week took what it termed a ‘difficult’ decision to shut down operations.
This effectively means that football sponsorship is back in its dark corner as all efforts to go back to the field take another nasty twist in the midst of ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is regrettable that this latest total ban on alcohol sales has resulted in the suspension of KBL operations, which will remain in place for as long as the alcohol ban persists. KBL continues its efforts to engage government on this critical issue, which is having an enormous impact on the industry and its extensive value chain,” the company explained.
Although not proudly maintained at Lekidi Football Centre, the company is said to have abandoned talks on explanations revolving around ‘lack of funds.’In the initial agreement, sources say that it was settled that KBL would sponsor the Botswana Football League at a tune of P30million for a period of three years.
It is maintained that the deal was to be relooked and redefined to fit the sponsorship modalities of today’s game.Highly placed sources speaking with this publication however state that BFA is assisting BFL to cajole other companies to come on board as football is about to return to the field.
Top of the list is ABSA Bank who have remained afloat despite the impacts of the virus. The bank is said to be committed to football but sources say it will take a considerable amount of persuasion to see the bank increasing sponsorship.
KBL, in the first phase, were willing to commit without much difficulties but after the storm of COVID-19, the company was to take a back seat and played a waiting game. They reasoned that the continuous lockdown the country has gone under has left them with little income than expected.
But according to sources, KBL is still expressing pleasure to engage with the association again and will further illustrate their willingness to come on board as soon as the corona virus situation subsides.It is said KBL has requested further information regarding sponsorship value from the association and once satisfied, negotiations will resume.
However, some administrators within the National Executive Committee believe KBL’s parting message does not inspire confidence. “KBL‘s phase is over, they gave us hope but it is difficult to keep track of them, COVID-19 has affected every plan,” one member shared.
At the close last season, way before the corona virus impacted the country negatively; BFA revealed that it had long compiled its situation analysis of sponsorship value for the local game. It was understood that the property that is the Premier League could be purchased at a value P 15 million over 43 premier league games.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) President, Maclean Letshwiti.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) is engaged in protracted talks to stage a mini-league as lee-way to ascend into a proper football season by August this year.
The idea is to keep players fit and all football structures functioning as time pressure mounts.Informants say the idea is discussed at the competition office and will soon be forwarded to the National Executive Committee (NEC) for further deliberations.
This therefore means that all leagues across the country will be played for only one round until August where a new full football season will resume. Football has never returned to the field for almost 10 months now due to the corona virus.
The situation on the ground looks gloomy as COVID-19 cases continue to rise with each passing day. Football clubs are also feeling the pinch with Sua Flamingos becoming the latest victims. The club has been forced to suspend operations as players and members of the technical team test positive for the deadly virus.
While playing a mini-league is a last resort, it is mentioned that no team will be promoted or relegated after the completion of the games.Sources say it is better than folding arms when teams are continuing to pay players without kicking the ball.
The idea of the mini-league therefore means that there will be no prize money but teams will likely survive with grants from identifiable sponsors. Already, the Botswana Football League (BFL) has secured a P 5 million television deal for over three years.
The BFL think tanks contemplate to augment the television deal with sponsorship grants from ABSA bank. According to information, this will keep the league and its secretariat running until everything gets back to normalcy.
“It is true we are thinking to stage a mini league looking at what we have but this is still an infant idea, we are discussing and we will engage NEC going forward,” a member of the association shared.BFA leadership finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place as the motion to kick start the league in February was shot down by the assembly in October of last year.
The movers of the motion argued that high temperatures usually recorded in the South of Sahara desert negatively affects player performance and their overall health conditions. However, there were intentions to commence the league at the earliest possible time but the task force together with the Ministry of Sport wanted players to be tested and football fields be fumigated regularly to avoid spreading the virus.
Early this week, the BFL leadership engaged the Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB) to give an update on how football will return. However, this publication cannot adequately establish the detailed plan of the league.
Boteti based side, Orapa United were quick to snatch back Zebras left-back, Lesenya Ramoraka, tying him with a two-year deal after he was released this week by TS Galaxy.
The 26 year-old defender left The Ostriches in 2018 to join Highlands Park who later sold their status last year to renowned football agent Tim Sukazi of TS Galaxy. Ramoraka’s contract was to end this year July.
At the time of the sale, the team then opted not to register him for another season hoping to register him in the January transfer but his injury kept him out for longer than anticipated, forcing TS Galaxy to release him as he was free to start to negotiate with any team that may be interested in him.
“We have signed Ramoraka after assessing his injury and he is in Orapa as we speak doing his rehab.The injury is not bad and we expect him to resume light training anytime from mid- February,” said Kabo William, the club spokesperson.
Ramoraka left an impressive mark at Highlands Park where he played 29 games in all competitions and netting only once. Lee, as he is known in football circles, is one of the most trusted left backs in the country and has been a vital part of the Zebras with his absence felt at the national team.
“The team had wanted to keep him but they were just concerned that his injury was taking long to heal and they opted to release him as you cannot have a player out for too long more especially who is a foreigner,” said a source.
“He had survived the changes at the team and you have to also note that the coach who brought him, Owen Da Gama also just joined TS Galaxy and he is one of the players that he trusted and used so it is not a matter of performance but they couldn’t afford to have him on the side-lines for too long.”
Orapa United have also announced the signing of other players that include; Thabiso Boti formerly with Notwane, Kutlo Kolagano from City Eagles, Galagwe Moyana who was released by Township Rollers, Kagisano Mungu from TAFIC and the team promoted Phemelo Pushudi from their development side.
The Ostriches have released goalkeeper Bophelo Kealeboga who has signed a 2 year deal with Sua Flamingos, Mothusi Johnson who retraced his steps back to Gaborone United, Baboloki Makhura and Abdullah Hamisi.