Mark Harrisons’ philosophy remains embedded as Township Rollers enters the new season in need of fine-tuning rather than a tactical overhaul. But can they take the next step without hiccups? Staff writer MOSIMANEGAPE TSHOSWANE observes.
In many people’s views, Township Rollers’ preparations and robust transfer recruitment on the 2016-17 season was the ‘epiphany’ for those who doubted the brilliance of one of the arguably best football sides ever. Prior to the end of the 2015-16 controversial season, many football pundits had predicted a luke warm performance for Mark Harrison and his blue and yellow army. For the second season running, defending champions Township Rollers have not had their best start despite winning the Kabelano Charity spectacular- a cup carrying less significance.
The long suffering Rollers community suddenly have renewed hopes of days long past, after watching helplessly as Centre Chiefs and their former coach Mike Sithole wrestled the title out of their reach. They have roped in Harrison, a highly renowned tactician whose first job was to clean the mess left by former coaches. He seems to have done exactly that, reminding domestic football that he is a pragmatic man whose football ideologies have been appealing even to the purists.
It is indeed a quality required for a coach as Harrison has surveyed a squad that had worrying holes in it last season. But the Briton coach looks to have somehow transformed last term’s failures to a title winning team.
This would represent success and the soft spoken mentor is aware even this will be difficult. However, Rollers’ players are lining up to claim that a 3rd title in four seasons can be won but their coach is somehow cagey. Harrison would never say it publicly but everybody is playing for the league, it will be too early to say they are right on course.
Can it happen? The jury is still out until the close of this campaign as the executive committee inclusive of Rollers’ chief financier Jagdish Shah finished the quest to recruit players to the team. The bottom line is that choosing which of Centre Chiefs, BDF XI, and Gaborone United, Rollers can replace, is tricky as all have bolstered their ranks impressively this summer.
Harrison’s wrecking ball has however arrived via the transfer of Rollers most influential winger and club captain Sekhana Koko. He was instrumental in the club’s rise to glory last season. How Popa will cope with the damage is the great conundrum of the first 10 games, answers ranging from another title challenge – foreseen on this occasion – consolidation in the top two or squeezed back to the margins all carrying weight.
Beyond dispute is Rollers’ mantle as a contender and their reaction to both Koko and Ramatlhakwane‘s exit. For all considered factors the former Zebras players were the country-class inspiration behind the club’s strongest title challenge of the Premier League era. The blow however prompted a swift and considered response.
There have been six incomings at the time BPL released official new signings. Lemponye Tshireletso, Mara Moloi, Ntesang Simanyana, Gape Mohutshiwa, Mosha Gaolaolwe and Senegalese striker Pape Ndaw.
Harrison seems to have identified several weak spots when he arrived as Rollers coach late last season and the problems undermining the team’s thrilling title challenge last season have been addressed.
Much, therefore, now depends on the skipper Maano Ditshupo and the awareness of the strikers in front of him. The continued upward trajectory of Segolame Boy and the stability new signee Lemponye Tshireleso can bring will surely determine the success of the team. Up front, the club lacks absolutely nothing. They have Mara Moloi and Terrence Mandaza, each have the league’s golden boot on separate accounts.
In Harrison, Rollers like Chiefs did, possesses one of the most astute, forward-thinking coaches in the game. His rebuilding work may come to fruition in this season and next, but his foundations are in place.
However, the team is criticised for adopting a robust move when building for silverware. In search of glory and countrywide appeal, the team is castigated for paying little attention to their youth academy and adopting an almost mercenary belief that success literally has a price.
The government of Botswana has reportedly approved the dream of hosting African Cup of Nations in 2027 with Namibia as co-host, following a proposal to cabinet by Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare.
WeekendSport learns that the organizing committee dreaming to host the tournament is preparing to hand their hefty book to Confederation of African Football (CAF) when bidding stage comes into open. Botswana Football Association (BFA) has, to this date, managed to win the confidence of the government, and all thoughts around the African football prestigious tournament are given serious attention with acceleration of construction of 10 mini stadia across the country, sources have said.
Furthermore, reports in Namibia state that the Botswana government has approached them with a proposal to co -host the 2027 edition of African tournament. “I can confirm that the minister of sport in Botswana has written to our minister but these are still early days and no decision has been made yet,” Audrin Mathe, an executive director in the Ministry of Sport was quoted by Namibia Sun this week. Meanwhile, Rakgare has said: “It is still an internal issues but yes, we are interested in hosting with Namibia.”
All the while, BFA president who also sits in CAF national executive committee is expected to embody a more emotive promise about the ability of African Cup in Botswana and how it can benefit the citizenry and by extension, the Southern region. With Zimbabwe having come out clean about their intentions to bid for 2034 World Cup, there has been a growing feeling that Botswana should try her luck, and therefore Botswana delegation will be hopeful to walk a fine line.
Although, the commercial potential of a Botswana AFCON Cup is a compelling factor in their favour, following the relative uncertainty of many African countries ( due to political instability, extent of corona virus ) and state of insecurity, BFA is minded not make that their thrust of the case. Hence the concentration on providing a home from home for all teams among Botswana’s diverse population and the opportunity to use the proceeds to advance legacy projects around Africa. The feeling on the ground is that the move might be bold, and some association influential players believe that it will be a matter of upgrading Maun stadium, Masunga and Serowe stadium.
An idea is also harbored that another stadium will be built in around Gaborone to boost the existing National Stadium with the Lobatse and Francistown stadia also expected to play pivotal role. All the while, a more than P20 million operational budget is said to be needed to travel the African countries in convincing them that Botswana is more suitable to host with its security and economy very much stable.
Botswana passes the mark when it comes to transportation, accommodation and hotel facilities. The fact that CAF normally want a country that has hosted youth tournaments before enables Botswana to score points in that it has hosted before. The only problem that might mark Botswana down is road infrastructure. BFA will consider roping in an experienced sport person and the high profile of former players like Diphetogo Selolwane is anticipated to appear for the thoughts building around the bid, and his name will be seen as watershed moment.
The southern region, however, might be dealt a devastating blow following the catastrophe that hit Angola when they hosted the 2010 edition. The Togo team was shot by rebels and panic erupted. However, the field is open and the ever shifting sands of CAF internal politics make the race hard to call and feed fears of horse trading and backroom deals.
A delegation from FIFA, the world football governing body, has left heads rolling after concluding what some call ‘early findings’ that Botswana Football Association (BFA) secretariat has not misused FIFA funds contrary to widespread reports and criticism. This comes to the fore against the much peddled P8.8 million which disappeared within the coffers of the association.
However, FIFA delegation led by David Fani, a former BFA boss himself, finds out that the funds have been used to projects they were not initially meant for. The delegation cited money for covid-19 which was meant to cushion clubs from distress due to lack of playing and was used to pay BFA employees. However, the findings by FIFA are said to have left the world of football divided on the way forward. They are those who are skeptical about the manner in which investigations were carried out but are afraid to voice out for fear of being victimized or being relieved of their duties.
While FIFA is adamant that the funds were misallocated, BFA finds itself at pains to answer a difficult question where some staff members at the finance department were sacked. More complicating the already strained situation is the decision to suspend the Chief Executive Officer, Goabaone Taylor and threatening to expel her while she had an over-riding duty to prioritize BFA funds when corona had ravaged the administration and operational wing of the association.
It might be that the National Executive Committee was building a case for her and would now want to look as if they were saving face when they sidelined her. “During the four day visit, the delegation carried out its assessment and interviewed BFA staff and former employees. At the end of the investigation, the delegation briefed the NEC on initial findings. The delegation informed the NEC that it found no evidence of misappropriation or embezzlement of funds,” reads part of BFA statement.
BFA has claimed that its brand has been “deeply tarnished” and that its “ability to use its resources for positive actions throughout the country, and to meet its mission of supporting and enhancing the game of football” has been “impaired” as a consequence of the actions of the football officials and some sports administrators under their watch. “We are not out of the woods yet, we had made good strides in earning FIFA’s trust; we will wait to see what the remedial action will be. However, we will be tightening our gabs and ensuring that we regain the financial confidence we worked so hard for,” BFA president Maclean Letshwiti said.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place owing to the ever burning issue of mischievous spending at operational level.
While the association coffers have suddenly dried up, with some staff members getting the boot, the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development has threatened to place the Maclean Letshwiti led association under strict funding for unspecified period of time.
WeekendSport learns that the sport ministry is not happy about the financial status of the association and will want to act before everything get messy.
At the close of last year, the Ministry had to intervene for the Women National Football Team to travel to Ethiopia as BFA had no penny to cover for the travelling costs.
As if that was not enough, the BFA December wages were covered from the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) purse, an abnormality that BFA is at pains to explain.
All these incidents, however, coincide with a time when the Sport ministry is putting in place a new revised modeling for funding. The model requests national sports associations to explain in details the why they will need funding for their calendar of events.
Moreover, the Ministry is eager to prioritize funding basing on the performance of the sport code on a yearly basis.
“Things have changed, we are not going to splash money like we used to do, and we want a code to explain fully how they are going to spend the money,” a source shared.
Moreover, we will be funding looking at the overall performance of the code, we are not going to fund just because it is football and it is loved by many people.”
At worst, the ministry will want the association to account and should BFA fail to balance their books, the National Executive Committee(NEC) is likely to be dissolved by the ministry.
Sources further state that the Ministry’s patience has actually wilted away concerning codes that abuse funds. In the case of BFA, sources point out that they are likely to get half subvention until everything goes back to normalcy.
On a good year, BFA subvention reaches P 5.4million annually. Should the ministry persists, BFA will start operations of the year on a budget of about P 2.7 million. It will not be for the first time the association finds itself bearing the brunt.
Sometimes in 2018 when Tshekedi Khama was the Minister, the association’s subvention were cut down to pay an old standing debt that amounted to P3 million.
However, high ranking officials at the association believe funds can still be accounted for and refuses to accept that they have been reckless when it comes to spending. The official who does not want be named is of the view that the association had to halt FIFA projects and concentrate on incidental expenses brought by COVID -19.
According to BFA expenditure, the CEO gets the higher chunk and that’s where most of the money went. A national trip to South Africa by senior national team has also seen the association spending close to a million.
Moreover, the communication department of the association is bleeding more money after a certain PR agency was appointed nearly two years ago.