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) constitution appears to be under heavy scrutiny as Tebogo Sebego, the president of Notwane Sporting club, questions its authenticity, with strong indications that several clauses were removed and others added without the input of the General Assembly.
Sebego, who vied for the BFA presidency in October 2020, feels Notwane is a bonafide member of BFA and has been participating in the past three BFA assemblies but cannot be part of the mess that the club and others did not create. On 13th September 2021, Notwane forwarded a complaint letter to the football association’s chief executive officer (CEO), challenging how two constitutions were amended.
The club says a constitution dated 25th June 2021 and the other bearing a stamp of 10th December 2020 were amended under fraudulent circumstances and want an explanation on how it transpired. “We have recently received a constitution dated 25th June 2021 stamped by the registrar of societies. The said constitution carries some changes that were never discussed and voted upon at the BFA general assembly.
Of particular interest, we have noted that the following new amendments, Article 33 of the 2016 constitution, is replaced by article 30. The procedure has been reduced, but the principles remain the same. The relevance of this is to restate the constitutional culture and mandatory powers of the General Assembly as the sole body responsible for constitutional amendments,” part of the letter seen by this publication reads.
Article 33 that Sebego complains of reads thus, “The general assembly is responsible for amending the constitution and the standing orders of the general assembly.” Furthermore, Notwane argues that another article (22.1) of the 2021 constitution then wipes off the presence of 16 delegates from the Premier League clubs and eight representatives from the first division together with their voting rights.
The club believes that while the autonomy of the Botswana Football League (BFL) was approved in the 2020 General Assembly, the assembly never discussed, voted or approved the removal of delegates from the General Assembly. The team believes that the amendments are therefore unlawful for lack of authority from the General Assembly. This is the case because it has a significant impact on the landscape of the structure of the General Assembly, Notwane argues.
Moreover, Notwane’s shock is skyrocketing, especially when raising another equally screaming change in the constitution. In the letter state, the club states that article 33.4 of the 2021 constitution introduces a term limit for the president. The club speculates that the amendment seems to be carried from the 2019 version of the constitution, and whatever its genesis, the matter was never before the General Assembly.
“It is only the General Assembly that has powers, through the right constitutional channels to introduce a limitation on the term of the president and further to define the limitation based on the reasons presented to it,” the argument goes on. The old constitution was limited to at most two terms, but it seems the president can now enjoy the third term.
Sebego and Notwane argue that they have raised these articles to demonstrate that the constitution was amended without following due process in an unconstitutional, unlawful and somewhat fraudulent manner. They say this 2021 constitution and that of the 2019 version are, in their view, unlawful documents and should be reversed without delay.
The complaint letter was also copied to the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) desk and the registrar of societies — an organisation that issued a stamp on the constitutions in question. Notwane, in a parting shot, wants to be furnished with minutes that allowed the constitutional changes because, to their understanding, there was none.
It has come to the attention of this publication that Notwane had given the BFA head of secretariat seven days to have replied, but nothing has come out. However, neither party was available for comment as the paper was going to print.
A clash of personal egos, paper trail gone wrong and unfulfilled promises are the primary reasons Botswana international star player, Mothusi’ Mini’ Cooper is still on the fringes despite a vast of football talent at his disposal.
Cooper has suddenly become the centre of controversy after completing a dream move to Lusaka Power Dynamos in Zambia and adorned by many football lovers. His move left his parent club, Township Rollers, divided. Cooper left Rollers last season, but the club he was hoping to re-write his name into folklore has suddenly given him nightmares where he is now stuck on the way forward.
It is reported that the pint-sized midfielder has terminated his two-year contract with the Lusaka club after the club failed to fulfil the terms of the agreement. When cancelling the contract, Cooper was doing so with the hope that he would eventually re-united his old club, Township Rollers.
According to informants, Rollers high-ranking officials refused to accept Cooper back because Power Dynamos is yet to finish the transfer fee paid for the player. It is said that Rollers were reluctant to release the player, but his agent forced matters, consequently fracturing the relationship between the player and Rollers management.
Cooper was earning close to P 25 000 per month, but that lasted for a while. As things stand, the player was training with BDF XI to retain fitness level, but his future is yet to be thoroughly established. Rollers are believed to be reluctant to negotiate terms with him again, and that alone cast aspersions on the way forward. Had the player left on good terms, he would have been readily accepted back, sources claim.
From what this publication gathered, Rollers is still livid at how Cooper left the club, but what is more of a serious matter is the fractured relationship between the club and player agent. It is said that Rollers had failed to pay the agent his dues when Cooper was sold to Lusaka Power Dynamos.
While others within the Rollers executive committee believe this matter could be quickly resolved, the club is still awaiting paper documents filed at FIFA seeking Lusaka Power Dynamos to complete payment of the player. It is not yet clear how much is owed to Township Rollers, but what is apparent is that Dynamos has disappointed.
Cooper was on the wanted list of Orapa United, but the transfer window closed before anything tangible could be discussed. Phemperetle Pheto, the spokesperson of Rollers, refused to shared details regarding Cooper matter. However, their chief executive officer Bennett Mamelodi indicated through the club’s online magazine that the case is before FIFA statutes and will be discussed soon.
After more than 550 days without competitive football game in the country, information gleaned from various sources indicates that the Botswana Football League (BFL) is expected to start the 2021/2022 football season not early or late October.
The resumption of the 2021/2020 season comes after a year and few months since March 2020. Local football was halted during the second round of 2019/2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The ban on competitive sport aimed to keep the spread of the coronavirus disease under control. The pandemic had already forced the BFA executive committee to declare the 2020/2021 season null and void in March, citing that the resumption would have caused a fixture pile-up in a limited space of time.
In a brief interview with this publication, the newly appointed BFL Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Solomon Ramochotlhwane, said the preparations are ongoing for the football season. “We are engaging all the relevant stakeholders such as the referees’ committee, teams, even Botswana Football Association (BFA)”.
Ramochotlhwane also revealed that all teams would be expected to test for COVID-19 every fortnight once the league has started. He further indicated that they have since written a letter through the mother body, BFA proposing the vaccination of all the players and technical team members. The Government vaccination rollout plan targets people aged 30 to 44, and BPL wants all players to be included in this age group.
However, Ramochotlhwane noted that they are currently waiting for a response from the health authorities concerning the vaccination of players and the technical teams. Moreover, Ramochotlhwane indicated that they would use certified stadiums that meet the Confederation of African Football (CAF) standards. BFL, an organ established to run the elite league independently from the Botswana Football Association (BFA), is currently negotiating with former headline sponsors, Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC).
Impeccable sources report that the two parties are considering a reunion to lift football from its knees. Information gleaned from various sources indicates that each party has amenability and willingness to re-engage, but there is nothing concrete to talk about at this stage. When commenting on the prospects of BTC coming on board to be headline sponsors, BPL CEO said sponsors need assurances that activities will go according to plan and would not risk committing their money into uncertainties.
Ramochotlhwane would not confirm any names but instead mentioned that they have a plan as BPL in place. It is reported that the new BFL board of directors is quickly drawn to the side of local network giants who also have changed faces in their administrative and marketing wings. BFL is oozing with confidence after reports emerged that BTC’s profits have risen to P 832M. Meanwhile, it is reported that BFA National Executive Committee recently agreed to extend a P 5 million loan to the BFL to commence the 2021-22 football season.
The reported P5 million loan deal follows numerous attempts to secure sponsorship by the newly established BFL body but to no avail. The amount is meant to augment other sponsorship finances sourced thus far. As things stand, the BPL board is believed to have secured a P 6 million broadcast deal with Botswana Television (BTV) and have also closed files with Absa Bank on a reported P3 million deal. The 5 million BFA loan is an expected add-on to the overall P9 million already in the account of the BFL. The move, therefore, means that the 2021-22 football season will be powered at a value of P 14 million.