An excited Boitumelo Mafoko announced his early retirement a fortnight ago at Francistown but while it may have come as a shock to many; perhaps even to himself as he may not have planned to spill the beans yet, he could have not chosen a better time to bid farewell to football following his two decades of chasing the pig skin, writes KETUMILE RAMATITI
The experienced defender Mafoko, amid excitement and euphoria of having won a second Mascom Top 8 medal let the cat out of bag that he would not return to the field next season.
His town’s mayor, the team chairman and his lieutenants were all in attendance and celebrating the emphatic 4-3 win against arch rivals Orapa United. It was at the height of this ecstasy, which he contributed to by netting the second goal while marshalling the defence with great dexterity against the ruthless Orapa attacking force that he chose to bid farewell to the sport.
The victory at Francistown where ‘Navara’ made his name while cutting his first teeth at Tasc, saw him being one of the rare players to have won the tournament twice. In fact in all the finals he played he was match day captain and to top that, he netted in both finals. Unfortunately, ‘Madala’ as his team mates call him, has managed only two medals in his 20 years playing football. His first ever mainstream medal was in 2014 with BDF XI before early this month with the new kid in the block, Galaxy. Before then he had notched gold at the Kabelano competition while with Township Rollers.
“It was one of the best games in my football life, and I should say that it is my last final of the tournament,” the virtually jubilant Galaxy captain revealed. “I don’t know how to describe the feeling but I’m so ecstatic and at the end of this season I will be hanging my football boots. I have done my part; I’m old and I should focus on my job, I’m a miner by the way. Maybe I will bounce back to football after a year,” the 36 year old revealed on the sidelines of the ‘diamond final’.
Part of the reasons why the former national team captain is ending his illustrious career despite underachievement in terms of winning medals, is to give youngsters a chance. “It is not like I can’t run or play, no, I can still run better than 50% of the players in the elite league.” He continued, “It is time to give others a chance, I have groomed a lot of players now they ought to take the baton. There a lot of players that I have groomed especially at national level, look at Mosha (Gaolaolwe) and company, it is time I hand over to them.”
The medal they notched on April Fool’s Day was the first for Galaxy, and seemingly, it was the one thing he had been waiting for before he could consider stepping back and allowing for other upcoming players to add on to the foundation he has laid. By his own admission, he has groomed a lot of players and in his absence; his legacy should continue to be seen in them. “My fondest memory will be with Galaxy, in my first season we finished in the top eight the second season we won the tournament,” he said.
Mafoko has had great impact in the upbringing of young players with all sides he has played for, including Tasc Rollers, Cape Town Santos, BDF XI. While he is certain that his mind is made and he will retire at the end of May, Mafoko has said he will still meet with his advisors where he might rethink the decision. “Personally I will be retiring but I will meet some other people and I might leave later maybe after 8 months.” Galaxy’s participation in the Confederations Africa Cup (CAF) is highly likely to influence his final decision.
National team coach Peter Butler will also have to scratch his head in order to identify a perfect replacement for the versatile former national team captain. He has been a pivotal cog marshalling the youngsters at the backline especially when Butler introduced the 3-5-2 format. Mafoko started his football at Moshopha Young Tigers before joining Tasc in 2000. Rollers then snatched him in 2005 and four years later he joined South African side Cape Town Santos. In 2012 after the AFCON finals he joined BDF XI before he found a home at Galaxy in 2014.
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.