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 rich continue to get richer while the poor remain poor as CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe this week launched arguably the biggest competition in terms of financial rewards. The CAF Super league will feature 24 rich clubs from 16 countries. Already there is talk of the league further widening the gap between the rich and poor clubs. The fact is, most, if not all the clubs in the list of 24, are well resourced.
According to Dr Motsepe the total prize money of the CAF Africa Super League will be $100 million, with the winner receiving $11.5 million. He further said they will give each of the 24 clubs that will participate in the league $2.5 million which will be used to buy players and assist with transport logistics. The prize money also suggest that these 24 clubs will be strengthened so that they continue to dominate in their domestic leagues and in the continent.
Consequentially, clubs from countries whose leagues are still considered small or inferior will continue to play second fiddle to these selected power houses. For instance, just moments after the announcement of the $100 million exclusive club of the CAF Super league on Wednesday, Botswana’s last season Orange FA cup finalist Security Systems fell off the radar, announcing total withdrawal from the CAF Confederation Cup which is expected to start next month citing the financial challenges.
Whilst System’s decision borders on lack of foresight and preparedness, one cannot disregard the issue of finances and the isolation that small clubs are faced with when it comes to decisions like the CAF Super League.
Security Systems represents a plethora of other financially drained clubs who can only dream to be part of the exclusive clubs announced by Dr Motsepe. The underrepresented clubs will continue to be voiceless because there literally no one to speak on their behalf, hence Systems should await its fair share of a hefty fine from CAF, they will be punished for being poor.
On the other hand Gaborone United, crowned champions this past season, received a mere P1 million as prize money and they are expected to compete against teams that will deep their hands into a $100 million gold mine. Despite the good intentions and the apparent fighting spirit of the club financier, Nicolas Zakhem, odds are stuck against Gaborone United because the 2021/2022 BFL season campaign kicked started without a title sponsor as funds gleaned from broadcast sponsor, BTV and Absa bank were used to kick start the league. It remains to be seen how GU will cope against the money boys predominantly from North and West Africa.
The good news is that Gaborone United will remain Botswana’s flagbearer in Africa and were drawn against another DRC side, Association Sportive Vita in the preliminary round of the Total Energies CAF Champions League, making a return to the tournament after an 8 year hiatus.
The first leg is scheduled for the 9th-11th September weekend in Botswana while the 15 times Lina Foot league champions, AS Vita will have their home advantage in DRC a week later.
For their Security Systems were drawn against FC Saint Eloi Lupopo of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Alarm Boys as they known by their legion of fans became the second club to withdraw from this competition following Gaborone United and Mochudi Centre Chiefs’ decision to withdraw from the competition in 2015.
According to CAF rules and regulations, the withdrawal from the competitions by Security Systems attracts punitive punishment. The regulations stipulate that for withdrawing from the competition after the establishment of the fixtures, the team will be prohibited from participating in all CAF inter-clubs competitions for the next two editions.
It further indicates that in case of withdrawal of a team, its federation shall be responsible for the financial and other consequences to be determined by the Organising and Disciplinary Committee of CAF. Security Systems faces a $5000 (approximately P62 319) fine and a 2 year suspension from intercontinental football tournament participation from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Disciplinary Committee after their sudden withdrawal from CAF Confederations Cup.
In an interview with this publication, Security Systems Communications Manager Zolani Kraai explained that they pulled out of the competition because it is too expensive because of travel and logistical arrangements.
He further said part of CAF requirements is that clubs are expected to submit audited financial statements; they should also have development teams; and they were also expected to have a lease agreement of the stadium of their choice, which they believe was going to be costly and will take all their resources.
“It is disappointing to announce that we unfortunately won’t be participating in the CAF Confederations Cup due to financial constraints we find ourselves in,” Secretary General Billy Molebatsi told WeekendSport. He also mentioned that they are aware of the consequences of their decision as a club but they had no option but to withdraw.
Former Holy Ghost head coach Oupa Kowa, one of the renowned coaches here in Botswana, observed that some teams choose not to enter CAF Competitions after qualifying because of financial constraints. He said teams spend a lot of money in CAF assignments yet they get little financial help.
Meanwhile one Security System player who requested to be anonymous told this publication that they only learnt through social media reports that the club will not take part in the competition.
“It’s painful after so much work that we put in and be treated this way. We did not believe what we saw in the media because we knew we were going to DRC. There was excitement after the draw, we did not know that the club has decided against competing in the CAF Confederations Cup. I don’t think the club respects us as players,” he said.
The case involving the improper registration of Township Rollers left back, Onkarabile Ratanang which has been dragging for a long time since the beginning of this year was finally put to bed this week after Botswana Football League (BFL) Disciplinary Committee (DC) found Mapalastina guilty.
In what shocked many football fanatics this week, Popa Popa as they are affectionately known by their legion of fans were fined P15 000 for using a defaulter in some of their league matches. It must be noted that no team officially filed a formal protest against Rollers. In April this year, Botswana Football Association (BFA) Secretariat conducted investigations into registration of Ratanang and discovered that the player was registered outside the transfer registration period.
According to a statement from secretariat, it revealed that BFA registration period was from 13th July 2021 to the 30th September 2021 but Ratanang was registered on the 28th of October 2021 and this was done contrary to the rules and statutes of the BFA. After the investigations were conducted, two officials from Rollers and a former BFA employee Setete Phuthego who are alleged to have been implicated in the registration of Ratanang were suspended from all footballing activities.
The two Rollers officials were, General Manager Sydney Magagane and Team Manager Motshegetsi Mafa. However Mafa’s suspension was withdrawn on June 27 though there was no disciplinary hearing conducted. Rollers was represented by Bennett Mamelodi who is the CEO of the club together with Kgosietsile Ngaakagae and Martin Dingake in the Ratanang case. The Botswana Premier League (BFL) Prosecution team was led by Chalengwa Manyepedza, Bojosi and three other members.
When delivering the long awaited judgement on Thursday, Manyepedza who is the chairman of BFL Prosecution team said there were two mitigating factors in favour of Rollers with the most important aggravating factor being the seriousness of the offence. “To their benefit and it has not been violently contested to suggest otherwise, Rollers approached the BFA office for help (in their words) and curiously the BFA office that ought to be custodians of the system allowed the request and thereafter kept quiet about the matter,” reads part of the judgement.
“It is a matter of record that Township Rollers have maintained that the situation central to the case was facilitated and somewhat sanctioned by the named BFA officer who received the application albeit out of time as it has been established but still proceeded to procure the registration and clearance of the player and thereafter kept quiet about the matter.”
Furthermore Manyepedza indicated that there is a problem in the BFA office in terms of governance and adherence to controls judging from what allegedly happened. He further said whilst the BFA junior officer claimed that they were directed by a superior officer to assist the accused, “there has been nothing more placed before us to support the argument that Rollers were the only party with dirt on their hands in his case.”
He went on to emphasize that the committee finds that the appropriate sanction should also pronounce that the respective office of the BFA that facilitated the transgression was also remiss and complicit in their discharge of their functions. “As stated in the main judgement the player was a defaulter and the issue of his status did not arise from the protest or complaint or in any way as contemplated in the BFL Disciplinary code. It must be emphasized that the case would been different if all the issues had an aggrieved party or if any would have followed the set procedure in the BFL code,” he said.
Manyepedza said after taking all relevant factors into account including the demands of justice, the committee finds it fitting that the possible punishment in the matter to be prescribed above at clause 6.3 to be a fine of P15 000 and that the fine should be paid within 3 days of the judgement. In conclusion, he cautioned Rollers to refrain from any further acts of being negligent or clumsy in discharging their office functions to end up seeking favours from officials. Manyepedza also advised Rollers that they have 10 days to appeal the judgement.
Youthful coach Wame Mokoke has come out with guns blazing to the Extension Gunners official who he said recruited him back to the club after he dumped them for greener pastures at Jwaneng Galaxy but failed to deliver on their promises.
Pepe Zino, as he is otherwise known, then joined Galaxy on a 2 year deal to deputise head coach Morena Ramorebodi but 2 weeks later retraced his steps back to Mapantsula, a move he highly regrets. “That guy (name withheld as the issue is now before the courts of law) counteroffered what Galaxy had offered, promised to timely pay my salary from his company on behalf of Gunners and also promised me a 4 hectare piece of land at Dikgonnye, that is what really lured me back but he failed to deliver, ” Mokoke said in an interview with this publication.
After rejoining Gunners much to the allured charm that was dangled in front of him, Mokoke timely received his first month salary back in January but nothing thereafter as the unending stories began. “I could be far by now as Galaxy offered me an opportunity of a lifetime. They even promised to further my coaching badges but look at where I am now, “Mokoke disappointedly explained.
However, Mokoke said he has approached the labour courts for his defaulted payments and as for the piece of land, he registered the case with the High Court of Botswana and they are set to appear for a hearing on the 6th of August. He further added that he has proof of all the documents the official allegedly signed before his own laywers to authorise the land giveaway and the promise of monthly salary payments and furnished the judges with them.
A week ago Mokoke went back home as he was unveiled as the new First Division side Mahalapye Highlanders head coach on a 2 year deal and said he is excited about the new challenge that lies ahead of him as the management gave him attainable goals. “They simply asked me come and help them get promoted back to the premier league by building my own team and promised to avail the resources. I have also been given the authority over the establishment of our junior teams.
To try and achieve all these in a space of 2 years is a fair requirement,” he added. One of the projects Mokoke envisions is to try and unite the people of Mahalapye in terms of trying to get fully behind Highlanders including the supporters and the players in and around the Mahalapye area.
For starters, Mokoke said he wants to alter the tradition that has ingrained at Highlanders as majority of the players there were not from the team’s area of abode and he wants to give Mahalapye players a chance in order for them to don the blue and white of Highlanders with pride and sense of belonging and to steer the ship.
Furthermore, Mokoke is equally peturbed by the trend among the football fraternity of local coaches being undermined while their foreign counterparts enjoy prestigious welfare albeit being equally qualified as them. “Let us change the welfare of our local coaches who have oftentimes showed that they are equally qualified and capable like foreign coaches. Let us invest in our own and also empower them,” said Mokoke in a parting shot.