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.
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.