Part of the fun of watching Botswana Premier league is seeing fans of Magosi and Mapalastina argue about their respective teams, leading endless debates over the abilities of their best acquisitions and bragging about the results of the latest matches.
But while Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers have been running away from the cash-strapped league, having fun in their own little tournament, crushing opponents, challenging for every single competition they play in, they failed to notice the rise of Orapa United. They have been used to either BDF XI or Gaborone United chasing after them for a while, until the shallowness of their squads started to show. Rollers and Chiefs shared the first top spots for the better part of the season, and now Orapa United has leap frogged Chiefs and are aiming to take The Blues by storm-once again.
Those who love the underdog title, football lovers and neutrals in general who crave a good story of players overcoming injuries to participate in finals or meagre clubs challenging for the title of champions, would have found Orapa United interesting until this season.
In fact, football die-hards probably found themselves admiring The Ostriches as they are known, who have been battling superpowers with pride and dignity and getting positive results, and this time they have been untouchable.
All of a sudden, United are talk of the town, they stand second in BPL, four points above the third placed Centre Chiefs, and they possess one of the country’s best defensive units. Yet they managed to skip the part where they go from a forgotten club, to the next big thing.
The Ostriches have always been known as the team that never fulfilled its potential; they were the team that couldn’t find the right coach, the team that would always lose their top class players, and still could compete for top honours. They lost Dominick Changwe and Maxwell Moyo, mainly for failing to lead them to the Promised Land.
However, many still do not believe in the rise of Orapa. In fact, lots are still waiting for their supposedly inevitable demise.
But Madinda Ndlovu, the club’s coach has spoken about the endurance of his team in gripping terms. He has taken a turn, moments after guiding it to the top 8 podium, to thank God and the united front of this team. ‘‘I thank God we have won this top 8, we honestly deserved it, he said after the game.’’
It was not necessarily an acceptance speech. Neither was it a word of acknowledgement. But it was gripping and touching. Gripping because the country has not really heard much from the man at the centre of Botswana football’s emergent Premier League folk tale; and touching mainly because Orapa United’s season is something that really does seem to not need explaining.
The simple facts of games won and goals scored would not do it here. It is not enough that at the Francistown Stadium last week, United simply looked like what they are, the best team in the country this season, with complete players in every department, the best tactical plan, the most compelling spirit and the best – by records – defensive midfielder. It seems Orapa have to mean something too.
To date, opinion on this meaning has divided into two camps. On the one hand Orapa are a modern fairytale, evidence of the stridently jumbled brilliance of the Premier League and the redemptive power of sport.
At the other extreme Orapa United’s success is something more grave- evidence of the chronic mediocrity of the Premier League. For the bigger teams, finishing second to United should be an indelible spot of shame. But no one can dispute that diamonds and love have built a team borne of five other clubs within the Boteti region.
The fact is Orapa United are not really a fairytale at all. Or at least to see them as such – flukish, magical – is to miss the best part of what they are doing. Just as to see a cautionary tale here is also to miss the point.
They have started making money from all possible angles. The restaurant and bars within the Orapa town have proven to be a comfortable source of income. On monthly basis, an approximate of BWP 100 000 is collected and players are paid competitive wages. Each has been given a house free of rent, and welfare is never a problem.
Based in the heart of Orapa- a town known to produce diamonds since 1971, the team has found the need to unite the small population-estimated around 12 000. Five years ago, an idea to dissolve the five teams (Boteti Young Fighters, White Diamonds, Orapa Swallows, Orapa Bucs and Orapa Swallows) competing for funds from Debswana was debated. An umbrella team was later formed with faith of reducing over reliance in the Debswana mine, and in the fifth season of Mascom top 8, the team finally rips the rewards.
Orapa- a sesarwa name for resting place of lions- is a conventional open pit mine. The Mine was discovered in 1967 by a team of De Beers geologists led by Manfred Marx. It became fully operational four years later when it was officially opened by the then President of Botswana, His Excellency Sir Seretse Khama.
Last Saturday night therefore, in the Mascom top 8 final, was the epiphany for those who doubted the now brilliance of one of the greatest football sides ever in Orapa. Prior to this ill-tempered tie, many football pundits had predicted a favourable result for Township Rollers and Mark Harrison. Madinda Ndlovu’s charges were not the favourites owing to the brilliance of the expensively assembled Gaborone giants. However tables turned.
Orapa United trumped the ‘palestine’ to lift the coveted Mascom top 8 tourney. In the spotlight and rightly so, lapping up all the adulations directed at his egoistical but brilliant self was the self confessed master tactician- Madinda Ndlovu.
The long suffering community of Orapa and Boteti alike suddenly had renewed hopes from the days of forming one team. A club captained by industrious Thabang Mosegi, led in the midfield by the experience of Patrick Motsepe and spear-headed by the brilliance of Ronald Chikomo.
The Zimbabwean gaffer -a pragmatic man whose football might not be appealing to the purists- appeared to have developed a plan to stop Rollers. Having done it, but failed in the last hour with the same Township Rollers, the mood was shifting.
Typical of his sides, United were content to let Segolame Boy and company have possession but only in areas where it could not hurt them, rarely moving out of their own half and hitting Popa when they least expect it. Overnight, in the eyes of many, Rollers was reduced from an all conquering and swashbuckling side to a team that was devoid of plan B. It was partly true yet it also did fail to mention that which has always been the truth- that Popa is the better side.
The Madinda Ndlovu side appears to have developed their own reference point. They combine experience with youth. And to date, this is their identity and football ideology.
They also seek to promote talent and turn it to country-wide beaters. Thabang Sesenyi, Onkabetse Makgantai-all having scored in the final-Lemogang Maswena- and Baboloki Makhura together with goal keeper Mosimanegape Roberts are starry-eyed youngsters who don the Orapa kit almost every game. Reinforcements have been made to complete such a talent. Patrick Lenyeletse, a Boteti grown talent, Patrick Motsepe, Ronald Chikomo and Mcini Sibanda are torch bearers and engines running the team.
The mercenary belief that success literally has a price is not entertained by the Orapa Outfit. They do not splash staggering amounts of pula in players. The model to seek countrywide appeal and glory rests even with their motto: Orapa today, Boteti tomorrow.
Players like striker Bonolo Fraizer , Mambo Jambo are coming in to the side and success is in sight. It appears Orapa United and their approach on how a football club should be run is now coming into ascendancy.
Amid the confusion surrounding the date of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) elections, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, met with three presidential candidates on Thursday morning to discuss a plethora of problems bedevilling the domestic game.
The candidates are Maclean Letshwiti, the current President, Tebogo Sebego, the firm challenger of the BFA throne, together with Ookeditse Malesu who enters the race for the first time in his sporting career. There were other two unnamed officials who are said to be representatives from the sport ministry.
The Sport minister is said to have adopted a hard-nosed approach to register his disappointment and worry that the uncertainty of the upcoming elections have injured the administration of the local game.
Highly placed sources at the Sport ministry say that the minister’s ‘no gloves barred’ approach comes at the behest of the BFA’s constant negative headlines regarding their leadership style as of going into the elections.
It is said that Rakgare was also worried that the current administration is keeping the other two camps in the dark regarding the planning and processes bordering on election issues. This, he said has led to unnecessary speculations and back biting that is not needed to lift the game at a time when it is on its knees.
He was to rattle a few feathers at one incident when he called all the three leaders of the game to put their houses in order. As if that was not enough, the minister called on the three lobby groups to desist from serving personal interests but put focus on developing the game.
Interestingly, sources point out that the minister was livid but urged both Letshwiti and Sebego groups to refrain from tarnishing the good image of the ministry. This, he said in response to wide ranging allegations that he is taking sides as campaigns are ongoing.
The Sebego group accuses him of de campaigning Sebego and having a soft spot for Team Letshwiti while the same Letshwiti group is saying the same thing about the minister as having taking curious interest in Sebego camp.
The minister is alleged to have told the leaders that if they do not change their leadership style of protecting those looting public funds, his ministry would intervene even if it means attracting the wrath of FIFA, which is known for its notorious sanctions when countries do not toe the line. He urges BFA to be accountable at all the times they will cut the annual subventions that goes to them, sources claim.
This is not for the first time that the BFA was lectured on good governance. At one incident in 2015, former Minster of Sport Thapelo Olopeng dressed down the then Tebogo Sebego leadership regarding good governance.
BFA was at the time closely monitored by the ministry. Instead of the usual transactions that normally go through BFA, national team players received their allowances straight from government in the form of cheques. To demonstrate that government has taken a firm stand against BFA, players’ allowances were no longer routed through the association.
Nobody from the said meeting will address this publication enquiry all indicating that the consultation is never meant for public consumption.
If everything goes according to plan, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) will hold its annual general assembly next month through a virtual conference.
There has been much uncertainty as to how and when the congress will be held seeing as how COVID-19 protocols remain stringent on gatherings.
Sources speaking with this publication say the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the association has agreed to hold the congress within COVID-19 zones, consequently dispelling all the lingering doubts surrounding the life and soul of the assembly.
As it stands, there are nine COVID -19 zones in Botswana. The association is therefore contemplating to rely within four zones where live streaming will take centre stage for the first time in the history of BFA elections.
The congress was first billed for August 8th but was postponed to August 22nd. However, the second date could not see the light of the day as the country recorded a second rise of coronavirus cases that promptly led to greater Gaborone going into yet another lockdown.
The association has been procrastinating over the virtual congress idea with the election agenda remaining a sticky issue. Many advices came flooding that the association is free to make any decision about the congress but should be very careful not to compromise the integrity of the vote.
Sources indicate to this paper that the association is likely to rely on four COVID-19 zones, namely Gaborone, Francistown, Jwaneng and Palapye. The need to plant the meeting on virtual technologies hinges on the fact that the COVID -19 health protocols do not permit people to cross zones to hold meetings.
Information gleaned from various sources is that the association is looking to rely on four zones primarily because of the limited number of personnel under the electoral board. There are five members consisting of this committee and by the look of things; the association will not be allowed to outsource more election overseers at the eleventh hour. Sources argue that the whole cautious exercise is meant to avoid complaints that may arise after elections are held.
The virtual meeting comes after many failed attempts by the association to convince the Kereng Masupu led Task Force to give out a special dispensation. On many occasions, the Task Force refused to allow for the assembly to go on saying “football is not a priority.”
The assembly is expected to be held next month but the exact date still remains a subject of speculation. In the end, Tebogo Sebego will stand again for the second time to unseat Maclean Letshwiti while Ookeditse Malesu is standing for the first time to try and wrestle for BFA power.
The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, is eager to lead crunch talks that will consequently see Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) becoming one authoritative sport entity.
The appointment of one Tuelo Serufho to the plum position of BNSC Chief Executive Officer two week ago has further catalysed the intention to merge the sports bodies to avoid the long standing complaints of duplication of roles by the two.
Serufho was replacing Falcom Sedimo whose contract was not renewed.Serufho, ironically is the longest serving CEO of BNOC and also a board member of BNSC.“One of our aims is to form a robust sport body to centralize and improve decision making processes and maybe the time to resuscitate BNSC/BNOC merger is now,” Rakgare briefly shared.
The impending move is highly meant to improve effective functioning, governance and performance of sports in the country both locally and globally.Should this see the light of day, Botswana would have done itself a favour and it would start sending a handful of athletes to international competitions.
The amalgamation of BNSC/BNOC talks have been in the pipelines but discussions were aborted two years ago without clear reasons. The creation of this all-encompassing sport institution is overdue according to the minister.
“It is in fact our mandate to make sure this happens, it is overdue and by next year we hope to have finalised our position paper,” Rakgare added.The creation of the looming body is borne out of lessons learnt from various sports governance models around the world.
In South Africa, the sports ministry facilitated discussions to merge National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) and the South African Sports Commission. Their authoritative sports body is now called South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
With the South African model well in place, Botswana is urged to bench mark and create a sport body as a civic society-based organisation as required by the statutes of international sports bodies.The name of the local sport body is mooted and the minister refused to give a hint. But he is optimistic that the body will be the vanguard organization of sport in the country.
He emphasized that the sports organisation should be a purposeful guardian for governance and management of sports and be the required defining figure of the role of sports in Botswana’s communities.Talks to revamp and rebuild these sports bodies come at a time when BNSC is restructuring.
When Sedimo was still at the helm, he wanted to phase out some positions which he felt were unnecessary.BNSC receive close to 53 million Pula as grants from the government through the Ministry of Youth, Sports development and Culture empowerment while BNOC takes a figure a closer to that.