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Netball: One step forward, two steps back…

Just like a blossoming flower under the right conditions, a lot was expected from the local netball fraternity, multitudes showed interest in the sport and both junior and senior national teams were doing well continentally. However, at a time when many now are expecting the flower to produce the desired fruits, the tree is wilting, leaving the optimistic sporting family a blurred picture about the future.

Under the leadership of one of the renowned female sports leaders, Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego, who was an envisaged messiah to transform the sport, the picture on the ground according to some netball lovers is not pleasing. Sources who have been boiling inside, this week shared with this newspaper how difficult life is at Botswana Netball Association (BONA).

They lament that the sport is on a sick bed and needs urgent attention.

“This is appalling, if things were done accordingly we would be far by now, but what is happening is just an indication that we are regressing and this is the responsibility for all of us as the netball family to sit down and make sure that the sport grows,” a source told Weekendsport.

Netball barely two years ago was a code that was envied by many and the expectations were that it will carry the pride of this country, by then the youthful team that participated in the 2014 Africa Youth games finished on position three while the senior team presence was also felt in Africa. The netball league was also active but it has since died with the teams now competing in the constituency tournaments.

“This is also a cause of concern, the constituency tournaments should feed the league not the other way round,” noted another source. This is vehemently said it shows how drastic the netball challenge is. “All the girls are in constituency, the thing is the league failure; it is costing us and the situation is so extreme because now the netball is on a downward spiral,” Miscellaneous coach Mercy Kololo said. The same situation prevails even in Francistown where one of the best netball teams Tasc it is also dead as the players are busy in the Presidential tournaments.

For her part the BONA President Lebotse Sebego admitted that they have lost a number of players but they have little to do because of the financial benefits at the league. “Yes we have a lost a significant number of players and officials to the constituency league, but there is very little we can do about this because the constituency league is much more attractive financially.” However she highlighted that they keep engaging with those players who present the highest potential as national athletes so they are not lost. As for the league the Lebotse-Sebego just like last year where BONA hosted a sponsor-less league “we will host the league again this year with or without a sponsor.”

Again the other factor that is being said to be having a hand in the sport “regression” is the next year’s Under 21 World Cup which according to the insiders has taken all energies. “If you look the 2017 is the only focus and the leaders seem to be forgetting about the local structures like league, you will agree that time and again the team that will be competing next year is taken to camps and tournaments that mostly address their needs, what are we saying to the other structures?” another source asked rhetorically.

However the President has justified their focus on the next year’s event saying “this is inevitable, we are preparing for the first world cup in Botswana and the first netball world event in Africa so the stakes are high.” It is said that despite hosting a milestone event next year, the sport think tanks should not forget about the local league because the expectation by the descending visitors will be to find a lively netball structures than the status quo.

The issue of the world cup it appears it has been ballooning inside many as they also contend that even the committee has sidelined other able bodied people who could have taken the job, the resignation of one of Sebego’s lieutenant Ntebogang Maplanka is reported to be another sign that indeed there not that glitters is gold. The President concluded by challenging “those who would claim that the BONA leadership is neglecting netball simply does not understand sport development as the world cup bid is specifically to fast track the sport development in Botswana.”

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Sport

BFA faces ministry backlash

11th January 2022
MacLean Letshwiti

Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place owing to the ever burning issue of mischievous spending at operational level.

While the association coffers have suddenly dried up, with some staff members getting the boot, the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development has threatened to place the Maclean Letshwiti led association under strict funding for unspecified period of time.

WeekendSport learns that the sport ministry is not happy about the financial status of the association and will want to act before everything get messy.

At the close of last year, the Ministry had to intervene for the Women National Football Team to travel to Ethiopia as BFA had no penny to cover for the travelling costs.

As if that was not enough, the BFA December wages were covered from the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) purse, an abnormality that BFA is at pains to explain.

All these incidents, however, coincide with a time when the Sport ministry is putting in place a new revised modeling for funding. The model requests national sports associations to explain in details the why they will need funding  for their calendar of events.

Moreover, the Ministry is eager to prioritize funding basing on the performance of the sport code on a yearly basis.

“Things have changed, we are not going to splash money like we used to do, and we want a code to explain fully how they are going to spend the money,” a source shared.

Moreover, we will be funding looking at the overall performance of the code, we are not going to fund just because it is football and it is loved by many people.”

At worst, the ministry will want the association to account and should BFA fail to balance their books, the National Executive Committee(NEC) is likely to be dissolved by the ministry.

Sources further state that the Ministry’s patience has actually wilted away concerning codes that abuse funds. In the case of BFA, sources point out that they are likely to get half subvention until everything goes back to normalcy.

On a good year, BFA subvention reaches P 5.4million annually. Should the ministry persists, BFA will start operations of the year on a budget of about P 2.7 million. It will not be for the first time the association finds itself bearing the brunt.

Sometimes in 2018 when Tshekedi Khama was the Minister, the association’s subvention were cut down to pay an old standing debt that amounted to P3 million.

However, high ranking officials at  the association believe funds can still be accounted for and refuses to accept that they have been reckless when it comes to spending. The official who does not want be named is of the view that the association had to halt FIFA projects and concentrate on incidental expenses brought by COVID -19.

According to BFA expenditure, the CEO gets the higher chunk and that’s where most of the money went. A national trip to South Africa by senior national team has also seen the association spending close to a million.

Moreover, the communication department of the association is bleeding more money after a certain PR agency was appointed nearly two years ago.

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Sport

Mamelodi rejects BFA CEO post

11th January 2022
Township Rollers CEO: Mamelodi

Township Rollers first ever Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bennett Mamelodi has reportedly turned down an offer from Botswana Football Association (BFA) to take over the reins at the association as the new CEO.  

This comes to the fore following the ‘always expected’ suspension of Goabaone Taylor in December 2021, on account of internal investigations relating to the misappropriation of funds that transpired before her eyes.

Sources speaking to this publication indicate that Taylor will eventually vacate her position, barely eight months after her historic appointment as the first ever lady to lead the often stubborn BFA secretariat.

Masterminds behind her appointment and eventual fall from grace wanted to therefore give Mamelodi an opportunity to assume the role, but the soft spoken administrator is reported to have chickened out, opting to stay put at Township Rollers.

It is not yet known why an ambitious man like Mamelodi’s feet will turn cold over a job that commands respect across football circles.

However, it is reported that the once rejected Mfolo Mfolo will have a second bite on the cherry after BFA president MacLean Letshwiti confided to his close allies that he was misled at a time when Mfolo was sacked.

The equally soft spoken Mfolo, who too has footprints at Township Rollers was fired  just after the October 2020 elections for allegedly failing to take charge when the national under 17 was disqualified  from the COSAFA tournament  after failing the MRI test.

All the while, reports indicate that Mamelodi is eyeing the Botswana Football League (BFL) post where he made his name, but close sources continue to deny that the brother to Ashford Mamelodi will want to go back to Lekidi Football Centre given the manner in which his dismissal was handled about six years ago.

At the time of going to print, he could not be reached for comment.

As things stand, Mamelodi has been appointed as the project manager of BFL while holding the fort at Rollers. He is anticipated to provide insight on how the league can source sponsors for itself and run smoothly without struggles.  He is also expected to erect a working structure for the BFL.

Mamelodi has previously worked with Jwaneng Galaxy as well as interim spells with Orapa United to help both clubs turn professional. He is said to be in love with what he does at Popa and it is why he is no longer intrigued by BFA political positions.

However, sources mention that Mamelodi will be tried once again but are skeptical that the man will agree to the deal even if it is mouthwatering.

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Sport

Rollers veterans face exit

20th December 2021
premier league

Township Rollers veterans, who are reaching the end of their careers are hoping to part on high note, but the club has had a slow start to the season, playing second fiddle to its city rivals, Gaborone United.  The Reds has won the first edition of FA Cup since 2012 — now under the sponsorship of network giants, Orange — to send a memo to league rivals that this season is not business as usual.

Rollers has responded in controversial fashion, firing coach Hassan Oktay after suffering the ignominy of being knocked out by top flight football rockies, Masitiaoka.  The Blues have since appointed Frenchman Romain Folz to turn the club’s pot of gold into silverware, an attempt that his predecessor, Oktay has failed early into the season.  After clinching players with vast experience, the expectation is still enormous at Popa that all available cups including the league title should find space in their trophy cabinet.

Also, the club would want to traverse a torrid passage of CAF champion’s league, reaching group stages, once more. It is in this regard that Ofentse Nato is hoping for his own great leap forward in effort to end his injury nightmare. The no nonsense defensive midfielder has only featured once for the team this year owing to unspecified injuries.  This is the first time, in his football carrier that Nato misses the first five opening games of the season.

His absence could have left Rollers struggling. But he too, could struggle to return to his former self, missing the opportunity to drive Rollers back to glory days, alongside the rest of a gilded trio of the club; Maano Ditshupo, Simisane Mathumo and of course Motsholetsi Sikele. But the teams’ insistency and promise to make a loud impact this season is yet to bear fruits. The quartet will have to stand strong otherwise the ambition mirrors a tomorrow that will never come.

As part of the multi-million project of Jagdish Shah, the players were recruited to embody the present and future of the club. But all of them are on the wrong side of 30. Maano is 36, Nato is 32, Mathumo is 30 while Sikele is 30.  Both Ditshupo and Mathumo are exchanging the armband while Sikele has almost lost his starting berth to youngsters. Nato is also slowing down and it appears he has seen his better days.

The talent of the big four should make the case for Rollers to finally make headline impact, particularly in the league and FA cup starting in January next year. Rollers coaches agree that as a unit they could find an edge and this band of serial winners glimpse glory. The sense all could awaken for the business end is enhanced by their respective pedigrees. All the four know the pleasure of taking Rollers to glory days, they also understand the pain of failing with the club.

Ditshupo in particular, has been the most consistent player of all in Rollers squad; it betrays logic why he was never called to represent the country. In the first five games of the season, Rollers have been nothing but a luke warm club. They have emitted mixed reactions. They started well, clobbering Lobatse Outfit, Extension Gunners by 2-0.  Against premier league rookies, Masitaoka, they huffed and puffed, but the absence of midfielder Ditshupo was conspicuously seen as they were knocked out of the tournament.

However, the quartet returned to the lineup for the first time as a unit against Notwane in a midweek fixture.  Rollers were not convincing despite winning 1-0 to return to the summit. Judging by their performance and age, the quartert might not play Rollers ball again next season as premier league retirement looms.

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