Tough times lie ahead for Nico United FC as fears that the club may soon collapse grow thick. Weekend Sport has learnt that the club is on slippery ground following its main sponsor, BCL being shut down. As it is, the club started the year (2016) on a negative balance sheet as even before the provisional liquidation, BCL already had financial problems and cut off their assistance to the club.
“Since the beginning of this year BCL has not being doing well hence we have not being receiving our sponsorship accordingly, thus we had troubles with paying our players and settling hospitality bills, but it was better, but now the liquidation has completely paralyzed us because we no longer have a free bus from the company, our utility bills at the offices and training grounds are on us to settle,’’ revealed Coach Blue Same, a technical mentor at Nico United.
According to Same, the club now only makes do with grants from Botswana Premier League which are not enough. The club also survives on individual contributions from good Samaritans and well wishers. The club’s board which usually saved the team also comprises BCL employees who have since lost their jobs. “When I say the liquidation has hit us hard I mean this: our board comprises of former BCL employees, most of them managers and superintendents, this gentlemen have been helping with money from their pockets but now they are unemployed and some are already out of town scouting for greener pastures elsewhere, we are in big trouble,” he said .
According to the coach, the mine’s closure has lead to an exodus of the bulk of the team board members, further revealing his fears that this could be the end of his team. The board chairman is allegedly tipped for a new lucrative job at Lucara Karowe mine. According to sources at Majombolo, players have not been receiving their monthly payments and will be going for Christmas holidays empty handed “These are children, young men and boys who play for the team whole heartedly, it is unfortunate that the club cannot pay them accordingly for the simple reason that there is no money,” explained a source.
However, Same confirmed to this publication that Selibe Phikwe based business magnate, China Mading has however been coming to the club’s rescue a number of times with transport. “We no longer have any funds to finance our logistics, just last week Former Satmos mentor China Mading came to our rescue at the 11th hour and provided his minibus freely for the club to honour the fixtures,” Same said.
Information gathered by Weekend Sport three weeks ago revealed that Majombolo is also wooing Mading for a more commanding spot in the dressing room. Nico United Communications & Marketing Manager Mogomotsi Orapeleng told this publication that the assistance of the former goalkeeper and now local football icon has done the club good thus far. “Yes he has been and is continuing to help us with transport and logistics as well as other administrative matters,” he said.
Apart from the helping hand of their former legendary goal keeper Nico united has been relying on contributions from their Gaborone based supporters and Phikwe originals under the coordination of Vusa Ziga ,a local shrewd football analyst and sport administrator who extend an administrative helping hand to the club from time to time. “Sometime when we reach a dead end with hotel bookings for our games down south, our Gaborone based supporters and members come to the rescue with contributions and connections with hospitality service providers that side,” revealed a source.
Information gathered by this publication also revealed that a Gaborone based investor had expressed interest in injecting capital into the club, but members rejected him as he wanted to relocate the team to Gaborone. “Our financial troubles makes us vulnerable to vultures who want to take advantage of us, the investor wanted to use us for a status in the lucrative multi Million pula BTC Premier league ,but our members, being the registered fans rejected him,” added the source who preferred anonymity.
CLUB WANTS TO MEET SPEDU & LINAH MHOHLO According to Same they have taken a resolution to find ways to Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) for assistance. Same also told Weekend Sport that they are in the process of requesting Phikwe Economic Revitalization Strategy coordinator Linah Mohohlo‘s audience. “Sport and football presents tourism in the first place, and then small business flourishes under football events, thus we want SPEDU and Linah Mhohlo to use us to keep the town alive.”
A source from Nico United administrative corridors also told this publication that SPEDU can even assist them with finances since they sponsored a golf tournament to a tune of P100 000 earlier this year. “We feel SPEDU can come to our rescue, we will engage them as soon as January next year , if they can’t help us financially then one way or the other they have the acumen to assist us, we want them to organize us a meeting with Linah Mhohlo,” a Nico United administrator revealed. “We are of the view that Sports and football can complement Phikwe rebirth efforts through events tourism and keeping the town alive while economic resuscitation is in process.”
Established in 1969 Nico United is an association sporting club formed by BCL Miners, The team rejoined the Botswana Premier League for the 2004-05 season after spending the 2003-04 season playing in the second level, First Division-North, and has since then maintained their stay in the Premier league. The club launched a new technical sponsor in Pedigree Sportswear to dress the team amid financial crises. Nico United sits at position 9 in the BTC Premier league with 15 points and last week suffered a 3 nil defeat against Security Systems.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) is running without a substantive Technical Director since parting ways with South African native, Serame Letsoaka, who jumped ship midway through his contract in 2019.
This glaring revelation has left the Technical Department of the association hamstrung to fully operate by the book hence a plethora of problems protruding on the very nose of it.
This is the reason it took long for the association to take stern action against Zebras gaffer, Adel Amrouche. His departure was sanctioned at the eleventh hour when players’ patience had long wilted, threatening to leave the camp.
Pundits will therefore observe that it is the absence of a Technical Director that has caused all hell to break loose at Lekidi Football Centre.Since the departure of Letsoaka, the TD position has been more or less vacant as it has been manned by unqualified and somewhat incompetent administrators to date.
The TD position requires a CAF A-License qualification as well as a Diploma in Secondary Education as minimum qualifications. Among the specific duties of TD is; training and development of coaches, including design and updating of coaches manuals, facilitating licensing courses, developing a coaches Code of Conduct, arranging for expert and specialist coaches to deliver training clinics, education on rules of the game and creating and maintaining a library of resources including books, videos and articles for coaches to access.
The responsibility also include establishing and delivering a comprehensive and nationwide Grassroots programme at both the community level, in schools, and in the schools through clubs through strategic partnerships within the communities and with various government ministries and agencies.
TD also advices BFA on all matters related to the effective development of football in Botswana and is accountable for the development of a strategy and policy for the performance of football programmes.
Other duties include working with Youth National teams and coaches through development programmes in order to enable BFA to attain its goals within CAF and FIFA, including putting in place clear systems and processes for identifying and developing talented players.
After Letsoaka left, BFA reached out to Wire Kaelo, a Gaborone United legend currently holding the position of assistant coach at Security System FC, but eventually he was not appointed to the post.
Despite rumours to the effect that BFA had agreed terms with Kaelo to this day, the Association has not come out as to what happened to the alleged marriage.
BFA subsequently appointed one Dr Carolin Braun, on secondment from the German Olympic organisation, a move that left the association rooted in abrasive factionalism.
In particular, local coaches and the general football fanatics have always cried foul claiming that Dr Braun is not fit to hold the position of TD especially in a growing football environment like Botswana.
There is growing concern that Dr Braun does not have the pre-requisite credentials to be appointed for this plum post as she has never held any significant position within the football fraternity, not even at amateur level.
“It was a first in the history of Botswana football to see a TD doubling up as assistant coach to the senior national team and there has been no tangible coaching courses since the departure of Serame Letsoaka and this has been attributable to the vacant position of TD,” a source remarked.
BFA is currently failing to communicate CAF’s decision that the ill-fated CAF “B” and “C” courses held during Serame’s last days were not sanctioned and therefore attendants will not be certificated.
Over 50 local coaches participated in the courses and last year, most of those coaching in the Premier League had to be given waivers by the BFA Technical Committee before they could be accredited.
CAF has since indicated that the issue of waivers by national associations will not be entertained, something which might throw local games into disarray.BFA is still failing to come up with a coaching philosophy despite Serame having started groundwork before his departure.
Other countries such as Zambia have since resumed CAF coaching courses whilst in Botswana is still business as usual despite the impending challenges caused by indiscretion and lack of foresight.
Despite BFA having advertised the position of TD and subsequently holding interviews where recommendations were done by the Technical and Development Committee, the BFA NEC has refused to endorse the recommendation for reasons only best known to them.
Yet, there is a lingering fact that the NEC is clueless when it comes to technical matters. There is not even a single individual in the NEC who holds any coaching qualification including the Chairman of the member responsible for technical and development matters, Masego Ntshingane.
When asked about the position of the TD, Ntshingane said the association is well aware of the matter and will son fill the post. “Yes, it is true the association has not appointed a TD after Letsoaka’s departure, but we are working around the clock to hire capable people,” he said.
However, local coaches believe that it’s a travesty of justice to expect non-technical people to make meaningful contributions on technical matters to the extent that they can veto recommendations from a committee of renowned technical experts.
It is not business as usual in the operations manual of African football. Ever since the ascendency of Dr. Patrice Motsepe to the CAF plum post, the African football governing body is ringing changes to satisfy the demands and governance standards of the modern game.
However, it appears that what is coming out from the high offices of the game is a bitter pill to swallow for local clubs, some of which are touted to be the best in the land.
Connectedly, CAF has issued a circular to the effect that only coaches holding the CAF “A” education license will be permitted to sit on the technical dugout during the upcoming inter club competitions. This communication has been sent to all 54 CAF member associations in May 2021.
However, it seems local clubs have not been appraised on this development even though both Jwaneng Galaxy and Orapa United have shown desire to represent the country in the CAF competitions.
It comes to the fore now that the two clubs can successfully represent the country if they engage coaches with the pre-requisite qualifications which is now an insurmountable task due to the COVID-19 impact on club finances.
Both clubs have hired coaches who attended the ill-fated BFA conducted CAF “B” and “A” coaching courses which were held in Lobatse almost two years ago.
To date the coaches await the completion of the courses and certificates while CAF has made it clear that the courses were not sanctioned as they were held during the era that coaching licenses were suspended, a situation that BFA was well aware of and has since accepted the consequences.
The BFA is still at sixes and sevens on how to break the issue to the affected coaches as it is likely to cause a huge public embarrassment and backlash from the coaching fraternity.
“We all know about the problem, BFA is promising to come to the bottom of the matter as we continue to engage them,” says Botswana Football Coaches Association (BFCA) interim President, Daniel Nare.
CAF has also made it clear that this time there will be no waiver for coaches without the pre-requisite qualification because the Confederation has been too lenient in the past. During the last CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup, both Galaxy and Orapa United coaches were given a reprieve by CAF Technical Department as they did not even have the CAF “B” license.
When approached for clarity, the Spokesperson for Galaxy, Tankiso Morake said they are playing a waiting game when it comes to CAF issues especially that BFA is yet to reply to their letter. “Honestly, there is nothing concrete I can share because no one is certain about anything. We are waiting to be replied by the association so that we can finalize everything,” he said.
While United was not available for comment, it is clear that both clubs will need to hire coaches with the needed qualifications otherwise playing in this year’s edition of African football mirrors a tomorrow that may never come.
A recent study shows that Township Rollers is not only popular within the perimeters of Botswana, but has also made significant steps within the digital football platforms in Africa.
Out of the 70 African football clubs ranked on the African football digital benchmark, Township Rollers comes on the 35th position backed by a massive social media following. The club website records more than 399 000 followers and is seen as the most interactive in the local game.
This is consistent with the recent study conducted by FIFA- world football governing body- that Rollers is the only team locally that makes use of its digital platforms.
Notably, it comes out that the gap between Township Rollers and the rest of the 15 Premier League clubs is abysmal, this therefore works against creating a strong BPL brand value.
Rollers is the only club with more than 50 000 followers on Facebook, more than 20 000 followers on Twitter while its Instagram platform stands strong at 27 800 followers.
However, it is found out that much of the BPL brand value is killed by some social Facebook football fan accounts. They have stood long and have thus attracted more followers than the official accounts. Pages like Killers Pass and Botswana Football have consequently seen more than 100 000 following. Both of the accounts give 24 hour on-going updates of football’s latest news, transfers, results, video and live updates.
FIFA has therefore come to a conclusion that the two social media pages have grown interactive since they incite followers to answer and present their impressions about local football.
It comes into the open that 70 percent of domestic premier league clubs do not have official websites. This according to FIFA, kills the brand and visibility of clubs hence failure to attract lucrative sponsors by the clubs. FIFA also found out that the remaining 30 percent of clubs with websites are lacklustre and found wanting when it comes to their online presence. But in this regard, Rollers is on pole position.