Although the final whistle signalling the closure of the BCL mine in Selebi-Phikwe is expected only in February next year, the high but unpalatable probability of the mine closure will unquestionably be a bitter pill to swallow for the ‘Zana’ based teams.
The repercussions will surely be drastic and could prompt the demise of competitive football in Phikwe. This is because, for a long time, the mining town has been a footballing buzz, Nico United, FC Satmos, Mosquito, Maholosa, No-Mathata, Real Movers, Phikwe Acadia, Tse-Tshweu, Granada Wanderers, Mc Alpine and Electra just to mention a few, were some of the teams that hoisted the town soccer flag high. The Coca Cola cup could bear testimony to that. Who can forget the 2004 edition when the stubborn youthful Satmos went all the way to the semi-finals only to be eliminated (3-0) by the experienced Mogoditshane Fighters?
Another Botshabelo based outfit, Mosquito, had its share of fame when they plied their trade in the Premier league in the 2005/06 season, and the team’s greatest moment was getting maximum points from Extension Gunners. In 1986 when the copper prices were sky high, Nico managed to win the then competitive Lions Cup. Besides, for the past five seasons, the ‘baby-jombies’ under the care of BCL became a consistent player in the Mascom top 8, missing the tournament this season only after the mine’s financial doldrums worsened. The assistance they got from the mine was imperative in the team’s historic bride’s maid position in the 2011/12 season.
The main question now though, is: without the lifeblood of the town now at its lowest, will football ever witness these exciting moments?
“The mine assisted us financially before stopping that in 2015 when they notified us that they were not doing well. We relied on BCL for transport, camping and others but now that everything belonging to the mine has been locked up, it is a challenge. A good player who came to the mine for greener pastures will end up playing for Nico, but now is not the case under the current situation,” Nico United Communications Manager, Mogomotsi Orapeleng said.
He conceded that the liquidation and possible closure has affected them. “It has, considering that BCL made us what we are today. We have been heavily relying on BCL for transport as well as sought partnerships from those who have been doing business with BCL. We have members who have been subscribing on monthly basis using our club code at the mine, so with the closure of the mine, that will stop. Our support base is majority mine employees, who have been generating income for the club.”
The BCL mine has been an integral part of football development in Phikwe, Mmadinare, Bobirwa and Tswapong region; the teams’ leadership used the mine to recruit quality players there. They promised them a glittering future by offering them employment in the mine. This season, after BCL disconnected the respirator out of Phikwe football, they lost quite a number of players like, Kutlwelo “Jali” Mpolokang, Richard “Ortega” Legwaila, Khumoetsile “Chawila” Kufigwa and Onkabetse “Kaizer” Sefhoro. This was enough warning that should things continue to be nastier, scene synonymous to Extension Gunners’ ordeal could prevail in Phikwe with players welfare being compromised.
”One way or the other, it is true, but players come and go and Nico will always be there. So those around will have to soldier on and give the team a good shape and reputation,” the team responded when asked about the impact of mine pulling out.
For Satmos who has been relegated, should they bounce back to the elite league it will be different ball game altogether. In the past they managed to sign experienced horses like former national team wing-back, Mosimanegape “Twizer” Ramohibidu and Mpoeleng “Stopper” Mpoeleng. This, they managed because of the presence of the mine since quality players who were absorbed by the copper and Nickel mine ended up playing for the Phikwe teams. Consequently, this made the teams more resolute when home and gave visiting teams a run for their money.
“The possible closure of the mine will affect us severely as a region, our ambition was to start women’s football but with the current scenario the future looks bleak. Again, the intention was to start a development league but with the mine facing its grave this remains a pipe-dream because when we thought of all these, we banked on BCL to assist us,” Selibe-Phikwe regional football Chairperson, Barulaganyi Moloi bemoaned.
He continued to add that the corollary is already being felt, “we experienced the low ebb transfer period because the mine is no longer assisting the clubs, and this has affected us since we charge teams a certain fee during registration but this season we recorded low figures in our balance sheet.”
The eminent closure of the mine which was founded in the 50’s will see teams shunning their games in Phikwe simply because there is no life. Extension Gunners and Township Rollers were gallant enough to play some of their games there knowing that the working population of BCL will throng to the stadium and now this could just be history.
The qualifying rounds of the next edition of 2022 Africa Cup of Nations are nearing resumption. But it looks more and stiffer for Adel Amorouche and the Zebras to maneuver the qualifying terrain in March.
So many hurdles lie ahead as the Zebras desperately need to gallop and cross the line. Having drawn tougher opponents that include African champions Algeria and South African perennial campaigners Zimbabwe and Zambia, the contrast with these nations’ squad buoyancy could not be starker.
But what is even more complicated from the Zebras camp is the amount of hostility the coach is forced to face just few days after calling his supposedly troops into camp.
The Algerian gaffer — who is tasked with guiding the squad to the finals of the prestigious tournament for the first time after 9 years — is reportedly facing fresh accusation bordering on favouritism, abuse and sabotage.
This week alone about four players left the camp on different occasions but with similar reasons; that the coach is verbally abusing them.
Amorouche, a well-known strict disciplinarian, is also accused of side-lining players who refuse to agree to his secretly established love of selling national team players to oversee countries.
It has become public knowledge that Amrouche has sold Kabelo Seakanyeng and two former Township Rollers players, Simisane Mathumo and Tumisang Orebonye to a Morocco based club.
It is said on Monday of this week, he attempted to negotiate terms with defender Lesenya Ramoraka for a deal to be established. Those close to the developments state that the former Highlands Park player refused altogether to heed to Amoruche’s call, something that compelled the coach to chase away the player under the pretext that he is injured.
It turns out that indeed Ramoraka is still battling with a recurring knee injury he sustained while at Highlands Park but sources disclose that Amrouche forced matters for Ramoraka to come to camp. Was Amrouche compromised? The question brings multifarious answers.
“The player was called with full knowledge that he is carrying an injury, but it raises eyebrows in the manner he was chased. I mean there is no assessment of his injury, there is no report whatsoever,” a source shared.
It does not end here. Gaborone United player Tshepo Maikano also stormed out of the camp after enduring a tongue lash from his boss. It is said the player did not take it kindly and so was another GU player, Mothusi Thupa.
GU has since written a letter to the association seeking clarity about the development.When asked for comment, national team manager Monnakgotla Mojaki refused to answer to questions from this publication and said the coach himself is better placed to respond.
In 2019, Amrouche took what was an infamous decision to suspended four players from Zebras camp. At the time, the coach argued that the quartet of Mothusi Cooper, Thero Setsile, Onkabetse Makgantai and Mothusi Johnson failed to show seniority and professionalism. But he has since pardoned them.
Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB) says it is familiarising itself with full details of the issue. Kgosana Masaseng, the Secretary General of the Union said if it really true, then the coach has to man up or face the sack.
“We also hear that as grapevine but we are monitoring the situation. Should this come out as the truth, we call the coach to resign and go home than start abusing players in the name of discipline,” Masaseng said.
Zebras will face The Warriors of Zimbabwe in March but there is strong argument in the ground that Amrouche has already scored an own goal.On the other hand, stories of a disjointed association and less competitive league do point rather wearily to the basic obstacle on Botswana’s own path that for so many years of separation of ownership and club control, with many investors coming to the game and now the Premier League edging Botswana national team’s concerns to the fringes.
Against Zambia last year, Amrouche intended on bringing psychology and massive training to the game, but it also seems that, as much as he want to copy the style of other countries, basic skill is still a needed requirement. To date, Zebras game is based around a diligent, muscular defense and a fast-breaking, penetrative attack by opponents.
Amrouche now know a 2022 failure will not be accepted when the campaign takes another twist. It is safe to forget about Zambia, but as for Botswana, patience is fast running thin.
The Botswana Football Association Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Thabiso Kebotsamang has denied claims that there is racism at the ongoing Zebras camp.
Zebras’ players reported for camp last week to prepare for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier clash with Zimbabwe to be played next month in Francistown.
Botswana is third on the Group H with a point behind Zimbabwe and a win for the Zebras will see them leapfrog Zimbabwe to be second on the log before heading to the already qualified Algeria.
The camp has however been surrounded with controversy after some players were said to have been kicked out of camp.
“We have seen the reports on social media but I can confirm that there is no racism in our camp and we as an association will do not tolerate that and what I have been told is that players were assessed and as the norm some will be dropped due to injuries and various reasons,” said Kebotsamang, who ascended to the hot seat after the association parted ways with Mfolo Mfolo last year.
According to sources within the Zebras camp some players, Tshepo Maikano and Lesenya Ramoraka are said to have left the camp as they felt the coach gave them a strong lashing.
“Tshepo Maikano did not appreciate the way coach Adel criticised him for one of the goals scored by Zambia in the first leg fixture. We were doing drills, and time again he reminded Maikano how he failed the team to defend that moment,” said a source.
“Maikano felt hard done as the coach repeated the same thing over and over again even though he saw that the player felt bad about it.
“As for Ramoraka he came with an injury and he could not continue as he wants to fully recover unlike Thatayaone Dithokwe who sacrificed himself for the nation it’s just that he opts to be fully fit before coming back to play.”
The source revealed further that coach Ambrouche is a very demanding coach and wants players to deliver at all times and sometimes players may take his message wrongly.
“I think he should balance being hard and sometimes be soft so we as players can relate to him openly because now players are a bit scared of him,” continued the source.
When contacted for comment Gaborone United Director Nicholas Zackhem said they are yet to meet with the player and get the story first hand from him.
Meanwhile Orapa United mouth piece Kabo William said they were surprised to learn of their player’s return from Zebras camp on social media, indicating that they should have been informed by the association once the player was released or when the association found out he is missing in camp to avoid conflicts between club and country in future.
The Zebras camp will continue next month, with foreign based players expected to join local ones as the nation looks to qualify for their second Africa Cup of Nations.
Negotiations between Lobatse based outfit Extension Gunners and transport logistic company DC Tours have collapsed frantically with the latter growing ever more frustrated and withdrew their touted P 2million investment amid fears that the club is unstable and not ready for change.
The company walked away after one single meeting with Gunners management before it was pushed away, reports claim.
DC Tours are said have grown annoyed by the manner in which Gunners management arranged and held the discussions.
The club is said to have sent their player Dirang Moloi to represent them, something that did not go well with the company high ranking authority.
Moloi is a player but also an upcoming business man who happened to be the provider of the club’s merchandise last season but sources inside Gunners management felt that, in Moloi, the club failed to calculate the amount of serious coming from DC Tours corner.
DC Tours was said to be star struck by Gunners as one of the most supported brand, but their approach to serious matters has left the travel and transport logistic company with no choice.
It was reported that DC Tours was at an advanced stage to inject start-up capital and acquire 80% of shares but their bid was heavily reliant on the Gunners management decision.
The first stage of agreement was deliberated and decided in principle over the cause of last year, although details remain sketchy even to this date. The deal was supposed to follow many years of casting empty promises by the club previous committees to bring on board a trusted investor and traverse the commercialisation route.
Although sources say it is against the club’s constitution to run Extension Gunners that is operating as a society thorough contract management deal, any other worries and loopholes were to be dispelled to leverage a spade work on amendment of the constitution.
It was to be agreed that the club‘s account was to remain operational while DC Tours was to be in charge of finances and set to give Gunners society at least one third of the investments at the end of every football season.
The deal was to be concluded before the commencement of the new season and a space was left out for other companies who may want to partner with the Peleng outfit to come on board, sources claim. Late last year, it was also rumoured that the club was negotiating with former CMB Chairman, Okaile Rapula, but that never proved to be true.
Extension Gunners finished last season in a very uncompromising situation. The club has never known peace since winning the then Coca Cola cup in 1992. After one Tariq Babitseng was voted as club Chairman, the club battled identity crisis as the committee split and factionalism took centre stage.
However, Gunners management refused to share details about the DC Tours partnership.