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Behind the netball fascia

Botswana Netball Association President Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego (Right)

The encouraging spectacle of hugging, kissing and popping of champagnes witnessed at the Mahalapye Railways offices in 2007 when the strong netball women’s team backed by then Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Chairperson, Dorcus Makgato, white-washed the weak men’s side has since faded away.

Then, the spirit of togetherness and unionism of “woman for a woman” was prevailing, however, nine years later the same people who ensured her ascension have turned their backs on her, accusing President Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego of numerous transgressions.   

Netballers authenticate that indeed not all that glitters is gold; at least this has been confirmed by some members of the Botswana Netball Association (BONA) family. This week more netballers came out to disclose to this publication their frustrations with Lebotse-Sebego’s leadership.

Sources who sat in both the past and current Executive Committee say life in the current netball is unbearable and that there has always been some brawls behind the fascia, but they chickened out when they had to come out in the open. They now say this has hit their last nerves and they can no longer keep it in.

At the top of their grievances are the financial struggles, and the BONA members attribute the current lack of sponsorship bedeviling the sport to the president’s alleged ‘pride and egoism’.

“We had sponsorship from Choppies that was at the tune of P40 000. Unfortunately when the deal elapsed the President lamented that it was peanuts and that netball deserved something better, but look, we were supposed to cultivate the relationship with the company. Who knows by now we could be having a lucrative deal with them,” a source who “has seen it all” with netball said.

Another source, in relation to sponsorship said “ Tebogo has come out clear that as long as she is head of netball, Mascom competitors (Orange & be Mobile) will not be allowed anywhere near the sport. This will in turn lead to our sport dying because of lack of sponsors that we desperately need but it appears we put our interest before that of sport.”

Lebotse-Sebego is currently head of Communications at Mascom.

In her defense, the ever confident president said, “netball welcomes all sponsors”, further adding that, “I am happy to share with you that we have approached both Orange, and be Mobile for sponsorship but we were unsuccessful.”

Mascom on the other hand has sponsored a number of netball activities including Netball World Cup Qualifiers, and many other netball initiatives, and sources argue this is necessary evidence for that there is a big brother attitude when looking for sponsorships.

Netball marked its second year without sponsorship after Spar pulled out as sponsors of the sport, a factor which is blamed for the decline of the sport as teams which competed in the Spar backed league have now resorted to the money-spinning constituency league.

Another factor that is allegedly adding to the disheartenment of netball members is the said oppression from the president which some say makes/made their stay very difficult.

Sources have linked this with the silent fall-out she had with a number of her NEC members.

Two treasurers, Nkamo Madisa and Kesego Mogotsi have since resigned; besides, the Vice President Technical, Setshedi Botlhole –Mmopi, Vice President Marketing Ntebogang Maplanka, ex BONA President Onkemetse Mpudi and the veteran administrator Theresa Hirshfelt have now left the netball courts.

However Lebotse-Sebego said that those are not lost to the sport as they currently serve on the 2017 Netball World Youth Cup (NWYC).

“The two treasures resigned for personal reasons, and Botlhole -Mmopi also resigned because of work commitment and Maplanka also resigned last year for personal and family reasons,” she said.

She further said, “For as long as I am the BONA President I will only work with people who bring positive change to the game.”

All the while it will be seen whether ‘Madam Pres’ as Lebotse- Sebego is fondly called will retain her seat in their AGM billed for Palapye next month.

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Sport

City turns to BFA tribunal over relegation

23rd November 2021
Premier league players

Botswana Football Association (BFA) arbitration tribunal is set to hear a case in which Molepolole City Stars is challenging the 2019-20 football season curtailment that led to their untimely relegation. The season was abruptly ended amid the ravaging COVID-19 scourge when the government decided to place the whole country under lockdown.

In particular, City Stars, under Somerset Gobuiwang, challenges the rationale and fairness of the association to end the league when there were several options to pursue. The club does not want to contest the authority of the national executive committee to stop the league but argues that the decision to relegate them based on the log standing was unfair, irrational and unreasonable.

Moreover, the decision was against the spirit of the game and not the most appropriate one under circumstances where they were still about 10 league games to play. As the papers were submitted, City Stars argues that the most appropriate step would have been to suspend the league and protect the league standing. “The league would then resume when it was safe to do so, as indeed it is happening now, with the log standings maintained as they were,” the court papers read.

The team, which was languishing at the bottom of the table when the decision was taken, also argues and gives an alternative that the league could have ended without relegation issues. City Stars argues, “This would be in recognition of the undeniable facts that the league was not complete and that the log standings at the time were not in any way an indicator of how they would have been had the league been allowed to run its course.”

Furthermore, Molepolole City Stars are livid that the association did not consider that the complainant had valid contracts with its staff and players and that such agreement could not be terminated abruptly. On the one hand, BFA said it was looking at three options before ending the league. Facts and scenarios informed each decision, and one was independent of the other, it was argued.

The first option, BFA says, was to stop the league where it was and crown the team that occupied the first place, which was Jwaneng Galaxy. Furthermore, three teams lying at the bottom of the table would be relegated, and teams on pole positions from Debswana First Division north and south will be promoted automatically.

By all accounts, the association felt it was a controversial option to undertake but also fairer for the sake of progress. The second available possibility was to stretch the season and consequently change the football calendar. “There has been a shelved proposal that recommends the change of our season from the usual August-May calendar to February – November because of health reasons,” BFA president MacLean Letshwiti said before making the decision.

The last possibility was to nullify all the leagues. This was — and continued to be — the last resort. Across all the global leagues, the domestic campaign had only 10 matches left, which could, in theory, be completed in the space of five weeks. In the end, BFA feels that a decision had to be made for the sake of progress. The dates of the hearing are yet to be made public.

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Sport

Is it time to take Piro serious?

23rd November 2021
GU

Pontsho Moloi’s character and football standing as a young coach have embodied simplicity and hard work for far too long. Moloi is a local bred coach who has so far threatened foreign gaffers with his coaching philosophy, a style that is exciting and irking football purists in equal measure.

As Moloi is famously known in football circles, Piro has coached a few different clubs in the homeland, but his stewardship of Gaborone United last season — going into the new one- remains his best memorable achievement ever. Before the 2019-20 season was stopped because of the COVID-19 outbreak, GU was one of the league’s favourites.

But as any self-respecting purveyor of sporting cliché knows, it is never a bad idea to keep quiet and let your football do the talking. The only hanging problem for Piro is that he has often wanted to let his talking do the talking — which is a shame since, by and large, his football, both as a player and coach, has spoken loudly enough.

Piro’s coaching resume is fascinating and worth the test for a coach whose career is barely two years old. He has presided over big guns, one staggeringly good debut top-flight campaign, one freewheeling title charge, and one dramatic league season. Yet throughout, he has continued to serve as a punch line, painted by a substantial cohort.

Now, three games into the current season, his Gaborone United side sit at the top of the pile, having won all their games and remarkably keeping a clean sheet. No team has scored more goals than Piro’s side. Is Botswana football finally ready to recognize Piro as an elite-level coach? In fact, why has it not done so already?

The answer is not straightforward, regardless of what some of his harsher detractors would want to believe, although it is true that he has often failed to do himself any favours when a microphone has been aimed his way. In today’s culture, it only takes one slip of the tongue — one tiny sound bite lacking in self-awareness — to make you look silly.

Piro’s model has worked across the board: promotion-chasing minnow, sleeping giant, trophy-hovering Goliath figure, and now an aspirational upper-middleweight.

In each instance, he has found a new gear, improved his team beyond expectation and created a side better than the sum of its parts, at least for a time. Young and veteran players excel under his watch. Attackers — especially hard-running and bloodthirsty centre-forwards, Thatayaone Kgamanyane — flourish like never before. And for once, he has needed big money to make significant progress. Yet even at United, the least tangibly successful of his last three jobs and one where things went downhill towards the end, he put together sensationally exciting teams.

Now at GU, pundits still ask whether he will last longer at the top or he will soon fall. His demonstrations this season speak volumes about winning a bigger and better trophy this season. Can he deliver, or time will tell? Part of the answer will come as the season wears on.

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Sport

GU, Rollers – early favorites

16th November 2021
Rollers & GU

Football giants Township Rollers and Gaborone United have emerged as early favourites to win the newly refined Botswana Football League (BFL), following a perfect start to the season.   

There is a sense of relief from different quarters that this new football season, still striving to secure a title sponsor, is set to be packed with more excitement and action than anticipated. Seasons’ never-ending transfer rumour mill, coupled with half-paced friendlies, have their place in football, but they were indeed only going to be a tasty little snack before the sumptuous banquet, which is a new season.

Each team has played three games. At the time of going to print, Gaborone United, driven by local gaffers Innocent Morapedi and Pontso Moloi, remains in pole position with 9 points, maintaining an unbeaten record. The club also holds another record as only to club yet to concede. Also, on pole position is Township Rollers, who remain of the favourites to clinch the title come season end.

Languishing at the bottom of the log is Extension Gunners. The Lobatse based outfit have already pressed panic buttons by sacking their coach. It is still early days, but it appears The Peleng Boys, as they are affectionately called, are suffering early relegation season syndrome. They have played three games and are still struggling to find a win, let alone finding the back of the net.

Big guns like Orapa United and Jwaneng Galaxy have tried to bolster their squads but have failed to stamp authority in their first three encounters. Galaxy look set to be a better team, but two registered wins and a loss may as well betray this standing belief. Orapa, on the other hand, has grouped experienced players in their camp. Die-hard followers hope that this may be a fruitful season, but a midweek loss against Police XI in their backyard leaves followers questioning the readiness of their technical team as the season gets hot.

Township Rollers are breathing heavily on Gaborone United backs. The two teams now becoming rivals are equal on points, but much of the scrutiny is on GU, whose defence might be critical to this year’s championship.  The need for news and views — not to mention wins in Lobatse and Francistown or wherever will once again become the all-consuming passion in many football lovers’ lives. Some had reason to be happier than most. That is why Sua Flamingoes and Masitaoka are ecstatic for their first 2021 victories.

A logical decree is that the Premier League’s usual suspects will have it all their way again. Talent galore and bottomless pockets of cash were enough to ensure yet more silverware ends up in already crammed trophy cabinets. The cream, as they say, always tends to rise to the top. Week 1 of this first half-season was the most interesting one. Eighteen goals were scored, and Thatayaone Kgamanyane of GU became the first player to score a Premier League goal this season.

Premier League Chief Executive Officer Solomon Ramochothwane believes this will be the most competitive season of recent seasons. “It is tight and competitive, and we might have a new champion at the end,” he opined. He also expressed happiness that numbers will grow at the stadiums as time goes on. But beyond the shadow of a doubt, the return of Premier League fourth round — as remarkable as the first three laps — will signal several months of nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat tension.

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