High flying Township Rollers have finally succumbed to a lower trench of defeat after losing a long standing legal battle against Gilport Lions over the registration of midfielder Ofentse Nato.
The team perched at the summit of the log standings had their bubble burst when the Botswana Football Association National Disciplinary Committee (BFA DC) categorically stated that the player, in the eye of the storm, was improperly registered thus contravening football laws.
The judgment deliberated and read Tuesday night meant that the Gaborone West based giants will lose 3 points and 2 goals in favor of Gilport Lions.
To further pull Rollers into the jaws of the law, the team has been instructed to pay BWP 1000 for every game that the Zebras assistant captain has played, and his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) has been peculiarly cancelled.
The BFA DC took their decision leaning on FIFA-world football governing body statutes. Article 22 states that players may only be registered during one of the two annual registration periods fixed by the relevant association.
As an exception to this rule, a professional whose contract has expired prior to the end of a registration period may be registered outside that registration period. Associations are authorised to register such professionals provided due consideration is given to the sporting integrity of the relevant competition. Where a contract has been terminated with just cause, FIFA may take provisional measures in order to avoid abuse.
Gilport Lions argued that Nato’s contract expired on December of 2015 and to register him outside the window period of January was with an intention of bending the rules.
The consequences of the matter immediately pronounce worry and anxiety on the team that looked ready to step onto the podium as be-MOBILE premiership kings.
With three points deducted, the team will no longer enjoy the comfort of running on to the last two hurdles as firm favorites. As things stand, a solitary point separates them from rivals Orapa United. Rollers have gone down to 61 points while United has 60.
TITLE RACE TILT
After the conclusion of week 27 games, Rollers were meters away from their destiny, having brushed aside a spirited Police XI side by a solitary goal.
The stubborn Mark Harrison side needed to confirm that they are champions, with only one game to spare. No doubt that ailing Serowe based outfit, Green Lovers were never going to be a stumbling block.
The judgment has now changed dynamics for the champions elect. While pressure is a mountain with the team synonymous with paying ‘fat salaries’, the last game against tricky Orapa United is now carrying more significance.
Gilport Lions might be boasting with the expected ‘soft points’, but the pendulum is now swinging clearly between Orapa United and Township Rollers. Holders of the beMOBILE trophy, Mochudi Centre Chiefs are mathematically in the race, but endless boardroom and technical team wars put a dent in their intent of mounting a convincing challenge. Should both Rollers and Orapa United continue with their impressive form, their match scheduled for the 7th of May promises to be a memorable one.
SEQUENCE OF NATO REGISTRATION
Documents perused by WeekendSport revealed a transfer scam almost manufactured under the most shrouded circumstances to have the Mogobane born player registered at the premier league before the closure of January transfer window.
Background information showed that on Monday 1st of February, when the Botswana Premier League issued a press release to confirm completed transfers of players, Ofentse Nato’s name was not appearing. This was the case because Botswana Football Association (BFA), an overseer of the premier league, had made it clear that registration of players (whether new or old), transfers or loaning of players shall not be allowed after the 31st of January.
While the status of Nato, whose other name is Moepi, is before independent bodies, the view point from other quarters is that the former Gaborone United midfielder could have still been registered outside the transfer window only after his status was first dealt with.
The discrepancies surrounding the 27 year player’s transfer emanates from the license form to certificates of fitness. As per procedure, this publication learnt that once the license is granted by a relevant football authority, all other needed documentation should have already been dealt with. Ofentse Nato’s playing license indicates that it was issued on January 31st. In it, a date of 8th February 2016 was captured regarding his fitness, and does not correspond with that of the medical certificate issued by one Dr Lambert. Nato was thus certified fit to play on the 10th of February 2016. The license form bears signatures of the player, Rollers’ Secretary General, Khumo Masonya and the medical doctor.
All India Football Federation issued Nato’s transfer certificate on 9th of February 2016, 7 days after the player penned a four months deal with the high flying Township Rollers.
The abnormally is that all these were completed after the license was issued.
Further, it was discovered that on the 5TH of February 2016, a letter without an addressee was issued stating that Nato had ended his contract with Athletico De Kolkata on 22nd December 2015. The letter bears the stamp of the premier league but curiously, the stamp of Athletico De Kolkata is not appearing. It reads in part, ‘‘for appropriate purposes, we communicate that Ofentse Nato has ended his contract with Athletico De Kolkata on 22.12.2015.’’
While it is a matter of fact that on the 2nd of February 2016, the towering midfielder signed a contract with Popa, other evidence suggests that the player through his agent was negotiating with former local club, Gaborone United as late as on 5th February 2016.
How it happened
Chronology of Nato transfer January 31st- license application form was stamped and issued O2 February- Nato signed contract with Rollers 10th February- Nato ‘s fitness was examined 5th February-release letter issued from De Kolkata 9th February- Nato international transfer Certificate was issued
WHAT THEY SAID
Gilport Lions Chairman, Kelesitse Gilika said his team was following principle and not necessarily three points. He asserted that Lions were not fighting Rollers but wanted football to be the winner at the end of the day.
Township Rollers media liaison, Phempheretlhe Bafana Pheto said that the club was waiting for a printed judgment before making an official statement. He pointed out that Nato will not be playing more so that his transfer certificate has been revoked.
BFA Chief Executive Officer, Kitso Kemoeng added that they are still studying the judgment carefully and will comply with the orders after fully understanding all the details.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) is running without a substantive Technical Director since parting ways with South African native, Serame Letsoaka, who jumped ship midway through his contract in 2019.
This glaring revelation has left the Technical Department of the association hamstrung to fully operate by the book hence a plethora of problems protruding on the very nose of it.
This is the reason it took long for the association to take stern action against Zebras gaffer, Adel Amrouche. His departure was sanctioned at the eleventh hour when players’ patience had long wilted, threatening to leave the camp.
Pundits will therefore observe that it is the absence of a Technical Director that has caused all hell to break loose at Lekidi Football Centre.Since the departure of Letsoaka, the TD position has been more or less vacant as it has been manned by unqualified and somewhat incompetent administrators to date.
The TD position requires a CAF A-License qualification as well as a Diploma in Secondary Education as minimum qualifications. Among the specific duties of TD is; training and development of coaches, including design and updating of coaches manuals, facilitating licensing courses, developing a coaches Code of Conduct, arranging for expert and specialist coaches to deliver training clinics, education on rules of the game and creating and maintaining a library of resources including books, videos and articles for coaches to access.
The responsibility also include establishing and delivering a comprehensive and nationwide Grassroots programme at both the community level, in schools, and in the schools through clubs through strategic partnerships within the communities and with various government ministries and agencies.
TD also advices BFA on all matters related to the effective development of football in Botswana and is accountable for the development of a strategy and policy for the performance of football programmes.
Other duties include working with Youth National teams and coaches through development programmes in order to enable BFA to attain its goals within CAF and FIFA, including putting in place clear systems and processes for identifying and developing talented players.
After Letsoaka left, BFA reached out to Wire Kaelo, a Gaborone United legend currently holding the position of assistant coach at Security System FC, but eventually he was not appointed to the post.
Despite rumours to the effect that BFA had agreed terms with Kaelo to this day, the Association has not come out as to what happened to the alleged marriage.
BFA subsequently appointed one Dr Carolin Braun, on secondment from the German Olympic organisation, a move that left the association rooted in abrasive factionalism.
In particular, local coaches and the general football fanatics have always cried foul claiming that Dr Braun is not fit to hold the position of TD especially in a growing football environment like Botswana.
There is growing concern that Dr Braun does not have the pre-requisite credentials to be appointed for this plum post as she has never held any significant position within the football fraternity, not even at amateur level.
“It was a first in the history of Botswana football to see a TD doubling up as assistant coach to the senior national team and there has been no tangible coaching courses since the departure of Serame Letsoaka and this has been attributable to the vacant position of TD,” a source remarked.
BFA is currently failing to communicate CAF’s decision that the ill-fated CAF “B” and “C” courses held during Serame’s last days were not sanctioned and therefore attendants will not be certificated.
Over 50 local coaches participated in the courses and last year, most of those coaching in the Premier League had to be given waivers by the BFA Technical Committee before they could be accredited.
CAF has since indicated that the issue of waivers by national associations will not be entertained, something which might throw local games into disarray.BFA is still failing to come up with a coaching philosophy despite Serame having started groundwork before his departure.
Other countries such as Zambia have since resumed CAF coaching courses whilst in Botswana is still business as usual despite the impending challenges caused by indiscretion and lack of foresight.
Despite BFA having advertised the position of TD and subsequently holding interviews where recommendations were done by the Technical and Development Committee, the BFA NEC has refused to endorse the recommendation for reasons only best known to them.
Yet, there is a lingering fact that the NEC is clueless when it comes to technical matters. There is not even a single individual in the NEC who holds any coaching qualification including the Chairman of the member responsible for technical and development matters, Masego Ntshingane.
When asked about the position of the TD, Ntshingane said the association is well aware of the matter and will son fill the post. “Yes, it is true the association has not appointed a TD after Letsoaka’s departure, but we are working around the clock to hire capable people,” he said.
However, local coaches believe that it’s a travesty of justice to expect non-technical people to make meaningful contributions on technical matters to the extent that they can veto recommendations from a committee of renowned technical experts.
It is not business as usual in the operations manual of African football. Ever since the ascendency of Dr. Patrice Motsepe to the CAF plum post, the African football governing body is ringing changes to satisfy the demands and governance standards of the modern game.
However, it appears that what is coming out from the high offices of the game is a bitter pill to swallow for local clubs, some of which are touted to be the best in the land.
Connectedly, CAF has issued a circular to the effect that only coaches holding the CAF “A” education license will be permitted to sit on the technical dugout during the upcoming inter club competitions. This communication has been sent to all 54 CAF member associations in May 2021.
However, it seems local clubs have not been appraised on this development even though both Jwaneng Galaxy and Orapa United have shown desire to represent the country in the CAF competitions.
It comes to the fore now that the two clubs can successfully represent the country if they engage coaches with the pre-requisite qualifications which is now an insurmountable task due to the COVID-19 impact on club finances.
Both clubs have hired coaches who attended the ill-fated BFA conducted CAF “B” and “A” coaching courses which were held in Lobatse almost two years ago.
To date the coaches await the completion of the courses and certificates while CAF has made it clear that the courses were not sanctioned as they were held during the era that coaching licenses were suspended, a situation that BFA was well aware of and has since accepted the consequences.
The BFA is still at sixes and sevens on how to break the issue to the affected coaches as it is likely to cause a huge public embarrassment and backlash from the coaching fraternity.
“We all know about the problem, BFA is promising to come to the bottom of the matter as we continue to engage them,” says Botswana Football Coaches Association (BFCA) interim President, Daniel Nare.
CAF has also made it clear that this time there will be no waiver for coaches without the pre-requisite qualification because the Confederation has been too lenient in the past. During the last CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup, both Galaxy and Orapa United coaches were given a reprieve by CAF Technical Department as they did not even have the CAF “B” license.
When approached for clarity, the Spokesperson for Galaxy, Tankiso Morake said they are playing a waiting game when it comes to CAF issues especially that BFA is yet to reply to their letter. “Honestly, there is nothing concrete I can share because no one is certain about anything. We are waiting to be replied by the association so that we can finalize everything,” he said.
While United was not available for comment, it is clear that both clubs will need to hire coaches with the needed qualifications otherwise playing in this year’s edition of African football mirrors a tomorrow that may never come.
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.