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.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) is running without a substantive Technical Director since parting ways with South African native, Serame Letsoaka, who jumped ship midway through his contract in 2019.
This glaring revelation has left the Technical Department of the association hamstrung to fully operate by the book hence a plethora of problems protruding on the very nose of it.
This is the reason it took long for the association to take stern action against Zebras gaffer, Adel Amrouche. His departure was sanctioned at the eleventh hour when players’ patience had long wilted, threatening to leave the camp.
Pundits will therefore observe that it is the absence of a Technical Director that has caused all hell to break loose at Lekidi Football Centre.Since the departure of Letsoaka, the TD position has been more or less vacant as it has been manned by unqualified and somewhat incompetent administrators to date.
The TD position requires a CAF A-License qualification as well as a Diploma in Secondary Education as minimum qualifications. Among the specific duties of TD is; training and development of coaches, including design and updating of coaches manuals, facilitating licensing courses, developing a coaches Code of Conduct, arranging for expert and specialist coaches to deliver training clinics, education on rules of the game and creating and maintaining a library of resources including books, videos and articles for coaches to access.
The responsibility also include establishing and delivering a comprehensive and nationwide Grassroots programme at both the community level, in schools, and in the schools through clubs through strategic partnerships within the communities and with various government ministries and agencies.
TD also advices BFA on all matters related to the effective development of football in Botswana and is accountable for the development of a strategy and policy for the performance of football programmes.
Other duties include working with Youth National teams and coaches through development programmes in order to enable BFA to attain its goals within CAF and FIFA, including putting in place clear systems and processes for identifying and developing talented players.
After Letsoaka left, BFA reached out to Wire Kaelo, a Gaborone United legend currently holding the position of assistant coach at Security System FC, but eventually he was not appointed to the post.
Despite rumours to the effect that BFA had agreed terms with Kaelo to this day, the Association has not come out as to what happened to the alleged marriage.
BFA subsequently appointed one Dr Carolin Braun, on secondment from the German Olympic organisation, a move that left the association rooted in abrasive factionalism.
In particular, local coaches and the general football fanatics have always cried foul claiming that Dr Braun is not fit to hold the position of TD especially in a growing football environment like Botswana.
There is growing concern that Dr Braun does not have the pre-requisite credentials to be appointed for this plum post as she has never held any significant position within the football fraternity, not even at amateur level.
“It was a first in the history of Botswana football to see a TD doubling up as assistant coach to the senior national team and there has been no tangible coaching courses since the departure of Serame Letsoaka and this has been attributable to the vacant position of TD,” a source remarked.
BFA is currently failing to communicate CAF’s decision that the ill-fated CAF “B” and “C” courses held during Serame’s last days were not sanctioned and therefore attendants will not be certificated.
Over 50 local coaches participated in the courses and last year, most of those coaching in the Premier League had to be given waivers by the BFA Technical Committee before they could be accredited.
CAF has since indicated that the issue of waivers by national associations will not be entertained, something which might throw local games into disarray.BFA is still failing to come up with a coaching philosophy despite Serame having started groundwork before his departure.
Other countries such as Zambia have since resumed CAF coaching courses whilst in Botswana is still business as usual despite the impending challenges caused by indiscretion and lack of foresight.
Despite BFA having advertised the position of TD and subsequently holding interviews where recommendations were done by the Technical and Development Committee, the BFA NEC has refused to endorse the recommendation for reasons only best known to them.
Yet, there is a lingering fact that the NEC is clueless when it comes to technical matters. There is not even a single individual in the NEC who holds any coaching qualification including the Chairman of the member responsible for technical and development matters, Masego Ntshingane.
When asked about the position of the TD, Ntshingane said the association is well aware of the matter and will son fill the post. “Yes, it is true the association has not appointed a TD after Letsoaka’s departure, but we are working around the clock to hire capable people,” he said.
However, local coaches believe that it’s a travesty of justice to expect non-technical people to make meaningful contributions on technical matters to the extent that they can veto recommendations from a committee of renowned technical experts.
It is not business as usual in the operations manual of African football. Ever since the ascendency of Dr. Patrice Motsepe to the CAF plum post, the African football governing body is ringing changes to satisfy the demands and governance standards of the modern game.
However, it appears that what is coming out from the high offices of the game is a bitter pill to swallow for local clubs, some of which are touted to be the best in the land.
Connectedly, CAF has issued a circular to the effect that only coaches holding the CAF “A” education license will be permitted to sit on the technical dugout during the upcoming inter club competitions. This communication has been sent to all 54 CAF member associations in May 2021.
However, it seems local clubs have not been appraised on this development even though both Jwaneng Galaxy and Orapa United have shown desire to represent the country in the CAF competitions.
It comes to the fore now that the two clubs can successfully represent the country if they engage coaches with the pre-requisite qualifications which is now an insurmountable task due to the COVID-19 impact on club finances.
Both clubs have hired coaches who attended the ill-fated BFA conducted CAF “B” and “A” coaching courses which were held in Lobatse almost two years ago.
To date the coaches await the completion of the courses and certificates while CAF has made it clear that the courses were not sanctioned as they were held during the era that coaching licenses were suspended, a situation that BFA was well aware of and has since accepted the consequences.
The BFA is still at sixes and sevens on how to break the issue to the affected coaches as it is likely to cause a huge public embarrassment and backlash from the coaching fraternity.
“We all know about the problem, BFA is promising to come to the bottom of the matter as we continue to engage them,” says Botswana Football Coaches Association (BFCA) interim President, Daniel Nare.
CAF has also made it clear that this time there will be no waiver for coaches without the pre-requisite qualification because the Confederation has been too lenient in the past. During the last CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup, both Galaxy and Orapa United coaches were given a reprieve by CAF Technical Department as they did not even have the CAF “B” license.
When approached for clarity, the Spokesperson for Galaxy, Tankiso Morake said they are playing a waiting game when it comes to CAF issues especially that BFA is yet to reply to their letter. “Honestly, there is nothing concrete I can share because no one is certain about anything. We are waiting to be replied by the association so that we can finalize everything,” he said.
While United was not available for comment, it is clear that both clubs will need to hire coaches with the needed qualifications otherwise playing in this year’s edition of African football mirrors a tomorrow that may never come.
A recent study shows that Township Rollers is not only popular within the perimeters of Botswana, but has also made significant steps within the digital football platforms in Africa.
Out of the 70 African football clubs ranked on the African football digital benchmark, Township Rollers comes on the 35th position backed by a massive social media following. The club website records more than 399 000 followers and is seen as the most interactive in the local game.
This is consistent with the recent study conducted by FIFA- world football governing body- that Rollers is the only team locally that makes use of its digital platforms.
Notably, it comes out that the gap between Township Rollers and the rest of the 15 Premier League clubs is abysmal, this therefore works against creating a strong BPL brand value.
Rollers is the only club with more than 50 000 followers on Facebook, more than 20 000 followers on Twitter while its Instagram platform stands strong at 27 800 followers.
However, it is found out that much of the BPL brand value is killed by some social Facebook football fan accounts. They have stood long and have thus attracted more followers than the official accounts. Pages like Killers Pass and Botswana Football have consequently seen more than 100 000 following. Both of the accounts give 24 hour on-going updates of football’s latest news, transfers, results, video and live updates.
FIFA has therefore come to a conclusion that the two social media pages have grown interactive since they incite followers to answer and present their impressions about local football.
It comes into the open that 70 percent of domestic premier league clubs do not have official websites. This according to FIFA, kills the brand and visibility of clubs hence failure to attract lucrative sponsors by the clubs. FIFA also found out that the remaining 30 percent of clubs with websites are lacklustre and found wanting when it comes to their online presence. But in this regard, Rollers is on pole position.