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Tebogo Sebego and the battle for the soul of BFA

When President Tebogo Sebego came to the structures of the football association roughly 12 years ago, it was never clear that he will one day yearn for football power and strive to control the game in a similar fashion deployed by long time bogus leaders of FIFA and CAF, MOSIMANEGAPE TSHOSWANE writes

It was a sudden depth of the sport life blended with a football conspiracy that was marked by a full four year reign of basking in the local acclaim of his success and failures that helped in molding both a new and unrecognizable BFA house. Observers put it that Sebego gained popularity at the time everyone close to the game was fed up with former president David Fani‘s style of leadership.  He, therefore, seized the opportunity and campaigned vigorously under the ‘friends of football’ banner to white wash Fani whose camp was crippled from every angle in the cold July of 2012.

Sebego, a lawyer by profession won country wide adoration and his ascendency to the BFA plum post hung on a two-fold victory mood. First, his flambouyance and charm convinced doubting Thomases he was the right man to refresh the then decaying association, and secondly, he master minded the fall of a man who had the backing of football god fathers.

Prior to the 2012 election, It was an open secret that David Fani was handpicked by Ishmael Bhamjee as a way of protecting and extending his BFA legacy while he needed to go up in FIFA positions. Observers point out that in 2000 when Fani took the baton, it became rather clear that he was a ‘feed boy’ of both Bhamjee and Ashford Mamelodi. True to their closeness, the umbilical cord remained intact that Fani finally won a position within CAF in 2011.

With Sebego, it is however, unknown whether he would like the next president to be a candidate who carries his blessing so as to preserve his legacy. But for now, he still prefers his.

Sebego and his energetic troops upon resuming office promised to clean Lekidi football center. Their hopes of taking the association to a reform phase were high as a kite. However, during his first two years (2012-2014), Sebego and his mentors’ hopes began dashing.

In the second year of his presidency, the mood within BFA began to shift as the team was hit with a back lash for taking decisions without consultation. When the matter first cropped up, Sebego gave it an eye wash and it gradually ballooned up when friends of football god fathers split over his resolve to transform the game.

Under his leadership, the association toiled to appoint British born Keith Masters as the Chief Executive Officer. But that was after a raging fire scorched across his National Executive Committee (NEC) over his decision to elevate one Tariq Babitseng to the position of CEO. Observers were convinced that it was a simple way of thanking him for forcefully canvassing massive support for him to dethrone David Fani.

The appointment of Tariq- whose contradictory attributes excite and irk the football fraternity in equal measure- was always with controversy and of course ruffled a few feathers.

But what raised eye brows and continued to draw burning criticism was the arrival of the ageing Keith Masters as the head of secretariat. His voice was never audible in the stubborn NEC, His leadership style was questionable and his admiration of power never influenced anybody until his sacking early last year.

To demonstrate his ambition for power, Sebego also acknowledged one Ernest Nthobelang to create a position of Chief Operation Officer. But when the team’s ship cruised, everything else revolved around Sebego and when the ship finally hit an iceberg, all hell broke loose.

The foot soldiers who were instrumental in bringing Sebego into power all attracted controversy. Nthobelang, who held the fort in BFA technical wing, was expelled for reading a different script when the team needed to thrive when dark clouds were gathering.

That Sebego‘s silent diplomacy is his best ingredient is purely not in doubt. He remained quiet as factions within the association burned.  Bruising affairs within the association were seen all over, spilling all the way down to the secretariat.

Sebego and his feed boy Tariq Babitseng‘s relationship hit the rocks once, but when the post of Vice President- Administration emerged, they teamed again. This was after one Segolame Ramotlhwa, (who was earmarked for the presidency before Sebego) broke affiliation with friends of football and challenged Tariq to the position. In- fact, this was the beginning of the regime’s factions.

In Ramotlhwa’s eye, Babitseng should have not campaigned because he was accused of having his fingers all over the till while holding the post of CEO. For the first time, the two members from the same regime stood against each other and it was not surprising that Babitseng strolled to victory while Ramotlhwa was left licking his wounds. “My history should not determine my destination, what happened while I held the post of CEO should be water under the bridge,’’ Babitseng had said after the victory.

All the while, Sebego’s support got dented and later diminished as his backers literally betrayed him. However, he knew his term was far from ending, but because he had unknowingly rooted out some of his troops, it was almost impossible for him to save the BFA ship from sinking under his watch. He became a turncoat when he somersaulted on his decision not to stand for CAF committees.  

He found himself having to deal with difficult questions when his fire-brand Babitseng was again- accused of office abuse and mal-administration. When Babitseng was finally labeled the black sheep of BFA, Sebego too, took the bullet. He found himself caught between a rock and a hard place when the time came to sack him. Friends of football hit rock bottom.

Sebego’s heart bled profusely but he remained steadfast in his mission to battle and capture the soul of the association, much to the amusement of those who were by his side.

But it proved to take a toll on his attempts.

A new mood of militancy swept across his NEC again when he battled to submit a bid to co-host AFCON 2017 with Zimbabwe. He had to answer more piercing questions mainly for surrounding himself with Babitseng while Masters was used as pawn in a tactful chess game. The attempt to co-host was finally shot down and at the time, the president and his legal advisor, Doctor Pusoentse were two worlds apart.

The infighting heightened. The Briton CEO was soon in the eye of the storm until he fell from BFA’s radar. Observers had highlighted that the CEO was Sebego’s moral voice, and his fall from grace would eventually cripple the president’s support within the NEC. At that time, Tariq was nowhere to be seen while the arrival of a new broom, Marshlow Motlogelwa was seen to be the beginning of a reform process. Motlogelwa, who came to the NEC under the Vice President-finance and marketing ticket, received unending showers particularly that he is believed to have master minded the fall of Sebego’s blue eyed boy- Tariq Babitseng.

As Sebego’s house endured a dizzying fall from grace, the time to recruit a new CEO arrived. Three names were submitted, and reports suggested that the president wanted to opt for more names insisting that the three front runners were not the right cut for the job. Of the three names, former BNSC boss Kitso Kemoeng was attractive.

His lieutenants, Marshlow Motlogelwa and Stephen Phetlhe-Vice President technical convinced him to settle for Kemoeng while he frowned upon the decision, he later embraced him when he got the position.

In essence, the newly recruited CEO was soon to fill Babitseng’s space in molding the ailing association. Together they became the heart-beat of the NEC. But soon, just as they were enjoying their new working relationship, the monster of consultation reared its head. The file and rank members of NEC who had a fall out with him grilled him for treating Kemoeng with kids’ gloves. Many of them felt Sebego had temporarily found comfort within Kemoeng‘s shrewd way of leadership.

The members regrouped and were about to send Kemoeng packing until a “technical error” saved him the job. He was initially given a three months probation but somehow it later turned out that it was a six months trial out. “As far as I am concerned, I am contracted to BFA and that issue is not relevant,’’ Kemoeng had pointed out at the time.

That Kemoeng would soon become Sebego’s shield was not in doubt. The former sports council boss began a restructuring exercise that left people bruised. While appointment of new faces and uninformed expulsion of old BFA cadres tormented the association, Sebego saw it all as unfinished business.

Observers say that he is seeking another term mainly to solidify his power at CAF. Whether he still remembers the promises uttered under Friends of Football manifesto are open to debate is unknown. One promise was to save the game from going to the dogs. As to why the objective of finding FA cup is not yet achieved after four long hard years might be a football terrain hard to maneuver. “I am  working to improve the game, those who see my track record will talk positive, and those who do not see it will say otherwise,’’ Sebego professed.

The road to 2016 elections is still under construction. A couple of foot-soldiers-drawing inspiration from Friends of Football gurus-want to take him head on. Of the few names penciled out is Ramotlhwa’s who sees this as a perfect opportunity tackle a man who he worked with in crafting todays’ BFA constitution.

It will prove to be a titanic battle for football power. Fresh reports suggest that Sebego has once again turned to Babitseng to defend the regime.

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Sebego challenges BFA constitution

13th October 2021
Tebogo Sebego

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.

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Cooper awaits FIFA decision 

13th October 2021
Mothusi' Mini' Cooper

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.

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League returns October

5th October 2021
premier league players

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.

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