Six in First Division North title marathon
The First Division League North is drawing to a break and almost half a dozen teams are in with a chance to claim the title at the end of the season. Francistown, Mahalapye, and Palapye teams are in a marathon that has captivated football lovers in the north.
While the Mahalapye and Palapye teams have financial resources at their disposal owing ton sponsorships by government entities, Francistown teams are merely being propelled by goodwill of the people. Botswana Railways Highlanders Football Club is perched at the summit with 17 points. Breathing heavily on their neck, is Palapye based outfit, Motlakase with 16 points along with Francistown traditional power house, TAFIC. Interestingly, TAFIC has the same number of points with Motlakase, but the latter are ahead with a better goal difference.
As the contest to the finishing line intensifies, wins for these three pretenders to the throne have been recorded with ease. BR as mentored by former Motlakase coach, an astute master in the lower First Division league by his own admission, Oris Boyo Radipotsane, has yet to lose a match. However, observers have begun to predict the fall of the Highlanders as blood bath encounters lie ahead.
Last weekend, the Mahalapye outfit recorded their first draw at home against determined Sua Flamengos. On the same day, Motlakase closed the gap when thrashing dispirited TASC by 3-1. Meanwhile, TAFIC ensured that David Bright‘s Morupule Wanderers continue to suffer by beating them by 2-1. ECCO CITY GREENS, who had run Mahalapye Hotspurs close for the 2015-16 seasons, have given an early indication of the difficulties they would endure with lackluster performances. They trail log leaders with 8 points even though having managed a narrow 2-1 win against Maun Tigers at the weekend.
The northern league is therefore not straightforward for any team. TAFIC and Motlakase FC have played each other with the Francistown based outfit becoming victorious. Highlanders, however is yet to face its fierce competitors and both of the fixtures are away from Mahalapye. At this stage the pressure is on them and this might work in favour for the rivals, especially after their 1-1 draw with Ernock Mmesi’s side, Sua Flamengos. Discipline will be the watchword for Radipotsane, both in performance and behaviour.
Observers believe the First Division North league champion picture is still blurry. Motlakase have already ensured that Sua‘s title push is diminished. The Palapye based club, who were relegated last season from the elite league, beat them by 2-0. When they met ECCO, they were really brutal. They scored 4 goals without giving Ecco a chance to hit back. However, the convincing performance was condemned by the red hot TAFIC. They seemed to have won a strategy and out rightly punched holes on Chouka’s tactics. The game ended with TAFIC claiming three points after a 2-0 victory.
Sua Flamengos somewhere along the way held TAFIC to a 2 all draw. But when TAFIC was playing against their brothers ECCO, they demonstrated arrogance and beat them (ECCO) by 3-0. All eyes are on these three teams, BR, TAFIC and Motlakase. All of them have tasted elite league football before, and each knows how to solve the promotion riddle. The painful theme however is that one has to win the championship, the other will have to traverse a promotional playoff route while the remaining one will have to try again next season and the big question remains; but who will eventually triumph?
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AFRICA’S RECOVERY: Sports as game changer
The year 2022 witnessed unprecedented phenomena. Several Africans- Gotytom Gebreslase, Sharon Lokedi, Victor Kiplangat, Tamarit Tola and many others- swept the World’s marathons records.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting control measures implemented in several countries, led to many high-level sports competitions being cancelled or shelved, the Dakar 2022 Youth Olympic Games was moved to 2026.
Founder and Executive Chairman, African Sports and Creative Institute, Will Mabiakop, says the inability to hold traditional and amateur sports events have had a serious effect on public health overall, including mental health, sparking a revolution whereby athletes began to talk more openly about stress, mental overload and performance anxiety.
“Africa is home to the fastest growing economies before the crisis, no longer on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). COVID-19 deepened interdependence between SDGs, making them harder to achieve, especially SDG 10 (reducing inequality) and SDG 5 (gender equality_ as the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on poorer countries, and heavier burdens (such as care work) fell to women.”
Mabiakop stresses that as policymakers contemplate actions to speed up recovery and build resilience, they must argue that sports and creative businesses should play a central feature in this effort.
“The sports economy worldwide is estimated at 5% of GDP, but only 0.5% in Africa. If exploited, Africa’s sports and creative industries can offer policymakers innovative solutions. Especially, as regards job creation, and providing employment to the 15 million people entering the job market annually.”
HOW CAN THE INDUSTRY DO THIS?
By leveraging the two-for-one concept: past studies shown that a 1% growth in the economy delivers a 2% job increment in this sector (these ratios are calculated using data from 48 African countries and adjusted to the reality of the sports economy in Africa by the authors). There are between 30 and 50 job types, in sports and creative industries, respectively. These jobs do not fade away with the first major shock.
Mabiakop indicated that policymakers can use these industries to tackle multiple crises- jobs, poverty, and climate risks. Sports diplomacy- defined as communication, representation and negotiation in or through the prism of sports- has proven effective in building inclusive and cohesive societies. Moreover, sports and the creative industry can support better mental health and well-being, both important for productivity.
“Policymakers can also be true to the game by leveraging culture and tradition to celebrate identity and reap commercial value in sports, textiles and jewelry. Creative sectors allow deeper connection with culture, are not easily copied and provide great economic potential.”
He said supporting grassroots sports has powerful distributional effects. “Fortunately, technology has made reaching wide audiences easier, generating higher rates of success when talent is discovered.”
However, Mabiakop held that potential pitfalls must be highlighted. “First avoid build it and they will come policies with infrastructures denuded from the rest of the ecosystem. Like the many sports stadiums left largely unused.”
“Policymakers must remain mindful of how these sectors move the needle in human capital development. Also, align the requisite public policies needed for progress from grassroots participation to professional sports, and even to international sporting events. They should also support investment instruments to render these sectors performant.”