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Zakhem, GU in talks

The last two weeks of May were dominated by reports that long time Gaborone United financier, Nicholas Zakhem was quitting the club.  Zakhem had announced that he will soon pack his bags and leave a club he has been baby-sitting financially for a decade.

Zakhem and GU have been in a partnership for the past ten years eventually turning the club to be the shining example of football commercialization which could advise the local soccer scene in that direction.

The BFA president, Tebogo Sebego was pained by Zakhem eminent departure. He declared that if he wielded much power he could have declared a weeklong mourning for the loss of this ‘foot soldier’ (Zakhem) who was pragmatic and walking the talk of Sebego’s slogan of commercialization.

“It is a sad day for football,” Sebego had said in one of the local publications.

However when many especially the GU family were coming to terms with the reality of GU without Zakhem, fresh information surfacing this week offers a glimmer of hope.

Zack as the construction magnate is fondly referred to, is said to be having an undying love for the Old Naledi based club.

“He won’t go anywhere. It was just a gimmick, he is a GU diehard, he only wanted to shake them to cultivate the dying loyalty to him,” a source said.

Among the reasons forwarded for his threat to leave was the team’s court case expected in September which he is uncomfortable with. Zakhem is accused of orchestrating the elevation of Rapula Okaile to the GU chairmanship. Those against Okaile questioned his GU membership and alleged that he was illegitimate.  

“We are currently negotiating with him and I won’t share more details because this could jeopardize the talks,” Okaile said on Thursday when contacted for comment.

When Zakhem announced his departure, GU’s fears were borne out of the heavy contractual obligations the club has with players. Most of GU’s players are housed at Zakhem’s estate in Mogoditshane.

The players are still accommodated at the Estate to date, a factor which sources say shows that, “Zakhem is here to stay.”

According to the Money machine insiders, he gave the players until next year to vacate his houses because he wanted to give them enough notice before they vacate.

While the team is currently embroiled in a tug of war against rivals, Township Rollers and South African teams over the services of the Namibian forward, Benson Shilongo, Zakhem is said to have entered the fray representing GU.

Reports indicated that this week the player and the financier were to meet and agree personal terms.

“He is sweet talking the player to sign a new contract and he promised to pay him personally because players doubt the steadiness of the team hence their reluctance to commit long term.”

These developments together with the fact that the team’s AGM is in July could help mend relations between the investor and some personalities in the team’s hierarchy.  

In fact the announcement that he was quitting, according to those in the know, was an approach to appease his ego with the hope that the team will up their game more so he feels he is the same top dog he used to be when he joined the team.

“It is simple he wants more shares to run the team; and this will be on the agenda for the AGM for the membership to decide,” another source said.

Zakhem’s Soccer Dynamics which was running the affairs of the team owns 51% and the remaining 49% is for the society.

Information before Weekendsport shows that the fall out between the two allies started after Okaile assumed office and tried to balance things by consulting with other members of the society on the subject of shareholding.

“Remember Rapula was under pressure that he wasn’t the legitimate chairman of the team and he tried to engage the society a lot. The Society was concerned that it was being sidelined,” the sources added that, “But this angered Zakhem and he felt that he was not appreciated hence his threat to quit.”

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Rollers make digital strides

11th June 2021
rollers_0121

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.

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GU finally snatches Ditsele

3rd June 2021
Lebogang Ditsele

Hard tackling midfielder, Lebogang Ditsele has completed a move from Botswana Premier League (BPL) champions, Jwaneng Galaxy, to Gaborone United in a reported lucrative two-year deal, WeekendSport can confirm.

The Reds have finally made their move for their long-time target and the enterprising midfielder is said to be happy to have completed the transfer after a heavy fall out with Galaxy management.

He wants to play football that pays, something which Galaxy cannot offer and the allure of GU was certainly too much for Ditsele to turn a blind eye.

The team as led and directed by construction magnate, Nicholas Zakhem- who is reported to have given ‘CCTV’ a mouth-watering P30 000 per month plus winning bonuses contract in demonstration of their seriousness to win silverware.

Sometime in March, the industrious player gave Galaxy an ultimatum-to either improve his contract benefits or let him go-after a decision was taken to offer the whole team pay cuts amid the devastating effects of the corona virus pandemic.

Galaxy had arrived at a conclusion of giving each player P 3000 until a time football returns to the field with moneyed sponsorships.

“We are proud to have signed him because he will add quality to our squad once football returns. Always a quality player and like him and he is now available, you don’t say there is no football, you tie him down before other clubs beat you to his signature,” said club Director, Nicholas Zakhem.

It is believed that Ditsele has always recognized GU as one of the country’s leading clubs, capable of competing for the grandest prizes. Ditsele was at Gilport Lions before he was snatched up by Galaxy and now GU.  His moves come as no surprise as his dream has always been to play for high paying clubs.

No doubt, Ditsele has enjoyed his years at Galaxy, where he is feted by the supporters, but the lad has always felt that the time is right to move on. Ditsele leaves having a year left on his contract.

It is impossible to dispute the value and service that he has given to the club, with the last season being his best, winning the premiership title.

Once Galaxy has sent him to overseas club at Highlands Park but returned home after a short stint.

However, the fan favourite, who has had an on and off relationship with the national team, The Zebras, was never going to be held by the terms of his contract.

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No injury problems for Amos

2nd June 2021
Nijel Amos

Despite encountering an injury scare ahead of the IAAF Diamond League circuit this week, Nijel Amos’ Olympic dream is still on track and he remains ever capable to stun the world by replicating his famous feat at the 2012 Olympic Games.

This was confirmed by his coaches and doctors after the Botswana star suffered a minor calf injury that forced him out of the weekend race. The multiple conqueror of 800m races is expected back on the track on June 9th to shake off this injury scare and face the possibilities of winning another Olympic medal. This likelihood only has one month to go!

Amos remains the only Motswana athlete to ever win a medal at the Olympic Games, a rare but magnificent accomplishment that still lingers in the memory of Botswana sport fraternity. At the time, he was only 18 years and strange enough, that silver medal felt like Gold for many.

His anticipated presence at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is on course to renew the long standing rivalry between him and the Kenyan 800m world record holder, David Rudisha. This is the same Kenyan competitor who won Gold when Botswana’s Amos came second in a race that would become the toast of the competitions at the London Olympics.

However, two years later, at 2014 Commonwealth Games, Amos dethroned Rudisha in another breath-taking race that confirmed and sparked the ongoing thrilling competitiveness — filled with pleasure, pain and sporting hatred- between the two.

When Amos was beaten in London, he never cared who won the race but was ecstatic to have finished at the podium, writing his name into Olympic Game folklore.

But in Glasgow, for Rudisha, defeat seemed not to have diminished his hopes. After the finish, when the lacerations were sharpest and the wound deepest, Rudisha was pictured hugging Nijel Amos, and congratulating him for a job well done.

Then, Amos was just 20 years, oozing with confidence. The shy looking Rudisha wrapped a Kenyan flag around his back and went on a lap of honour to celebrate his silver medal.

If there was disappointment Rudisha masked it with the skill of an actor. He smiled and waved as he received a standing ovation. “Amos is a tough competitor and he was very good,” Rudisha once admitted, stating matters of sporting facts that would follow between the two runners. Win. Lose. Win. Lose.

But then, there have been echoes of a swollen Muhammad Ali after his defeat to Joe Frazier, winking at the hundreds of fans who had converged at his hotel, determined to show light on his darkest day. The bruises on that day were to Rudisha’s record, not his face. Like Ali, he promised to be back.

But that night was about Amos. A callow 18-year-old who finished second to Rudisha at London 2012 sharpened his confidence, hardened by beating his idol twice on the Diamond League circuit, grew with each passing year.

However, both athletes began to suffer sporting injuries of their own, they lost the edge they were well-known for and it is why at the 2016 Olympic Games, the bookmakers were upset when they could not meet at the final. It was Amos who faltered in the heats and although Rudisha became the first Kenyan to retain an Olympic title, it was not as scintillating as it was in 2012.

Now with a month to go, Amos is living in prayer, hoping he stays free from injuries. He is looking forward to become the star again. He has won everything at the diamond league and broke every national record, but his eyes are still fixed on the ultimate prize- the Gold medal at the international stage, with or without David Rudisha.

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