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Eritrea problems deeper than asylum seeking

This past week we were reminded amidst jubilation, after defeating the Eritrea national team, that to them, winning a football match is not their biggest problem. To them, it is murkier than that, coming from one of the world’s poorest countries, and what is considered the most repressive nation, where, according to the UN, forced labour detention without trial are common.


The country has no independent media, and speaking out against the dictatorship or questioning the status quo could earn one jail time, under inhumane circumstances. According to reports, Eritreans are the second largest nationality seeking asylum in Europe after Syrians, many risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea in rickety boats supplied by traffickers.


In fact, there have been mass defections by athletes from the poor state, notably, the 15 players and a team doctor from Eritrea who were offered asylum by Uganda after they absconded from a football tournament in 2013.


In that country men and unmarried women are conscripted into national service for indefinite periods, often until their 40s. Media reports on the ten players who are refusing to return home after playing the Zebras cite that they too fear being enlisted in the Eritrean army.


Earlier on in June this year, a UN Inquiry reported gross violation of human rights in Eritrea. The report had said the government of that country was responsible for “systematic, widespread and gross humans rights violations that have created a climate of fear in which dissent is stifled, a large proportion of the population is subjected to forced labour and imprisonment…” the UNHCR website says.


“Information gathered through the pervasive control system is used in absolute arbitrariness to keep the population in a state of permanent anxiety,” the 500-page report said. “It is not law that rules Eritreans but fear.”


The team we watched play our own have nothing really to cheer about. They never voted for their leader, and were born into a dictatorship; they have known fear all their lives. Being wounded in that football pitch to them could have been more than just a game, they were probably reminded, as any wounded man of their failure, and how even in the football pitch they could never taste success at anything.  


While it is easy to take for granted their plight, and maybe even choose to play the blame game over what transpired after that Francistown game, the Minister of Security Justice and Defence Shaw Kgathi more than anything proved his ignorance over the matter. By allowing anger and hatred to inform his choice of words, the minister only embarrassed himself and the government.

“It’s simple- they must go back home. You don't come to a country to play football, lose and then say you want political asylum, no! There are proper steps to take and they can do that from their home country," Kgathi was quoted as saying.


The Eritrean government, according to the UN is notorious for punishing anyone who tries to leave without permission. Hence the UNHRC warns against sending back Eritrean refugees, but instead strongly urges international protection for them. Does it occur to the minister that if they are sent back, they could very well be sending the youthful players to their death?


Prominent private lawyer Dick Bayford has been roped in to represent the players and block the government‘s attempt of forcing them to leave the country. Bayford is reported to have served the Office of the President with papers that, state “as required by the Refugees Recognition and Control Act 25:01, Laws of Botswana, the said individuals have to be processed by a Committee established under section 5 (1) (a) of the Act for purposes of considering their application. Their removal from Botswana would in the circumstances be illegal.”


In Eritrea, there is no presidential term and the popularly-elected National Assembly of 150 seats, formed in 1993 shortly after independence, elected the current president, Isaias Afewerki. There have been no general elections since its official rise to power in 1993. They are governed under the constitution of 1993.A new constitution was ratified in 1997, but has not been implemented.

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AFCON 2023’s stats of celerity

6th February 2024

The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is renowned for its intense and thrilling matches that captivate millions of football lovers worldwide. So far, football fans have been treated to enormous upsets, eleventh-hour heroics, a plethora of goals, and innumerable twists reminiscent of a Hollywood screenplay deemed too extravagant – the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) appears to encompass everything. The tournament’s standout stars were largely overshadowed by lesser-known figures who appeared intent on perpetuating surprises.

Traditionally, AFCON has been ruled by Africa’s top-tier teams like Egypt, Cameroon, and Senegal, among others. However, this year’s edition has proven to be a conundrum for the continent’s elite nations as they grappled with underdogs in both the group stages and the round of 16.

Furthermore, the 2023 AFCON group stage unfolded as a rollercoaster of emotions, featuring unforeseen upsets, dramatic last-minute heroics, and a deluge of goals that left football aficionados on the edge of their seats.

 

BIG 5 Eliminated

Arguably the most stunning upset of the tournament unfolded when the Brave Warriors of Namibia, ranked 115th globally, triumphed over Tunisia with a solitary goal during the group stages. However, their exultation was short-lived as they suffered a resounding 4-0 defeat at the hands of South Africa, marking the most significant setback of their campaign.

Despite their earlier triumph and a hard-fought 0-0 draw against Mali, Namibia’s journey came to an abrupt end as they were soundly defeated 3-0 by Angola, leading to their exit from the tournament.

Another major exit was that of the Pharaohs of Egypt, who were eliminated by DR Congo in a nail-biting penalty shoot-out (8-7) following a 1-1 draw after extra time. Additionally, former champions Ghana, Algeria, and Tunisia all failed to advance to the round of 16, while Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde, and Angola topped their respective groups.

For the second consecutive tournament, Algeria, a two-time champion, suffered an early exit in the group stages, as minnows Mauritania secured a historic first-ever victory at the finals, securing a spot in the last 16 at their expense. Another powerhouse, Ghana, also fell short of reaching the knockout stage, as the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon rallied from behind to defeat Gambia, dashing the Black Stars’ hopes of qualifying as one of the best third-placed teams with just two points.

6 coaches FIRED!

Six coaches have already been ousted from their positions, as the Black Stars of Ghana swiftly dismissed Chris Hughton following their elimination, sparking a wave of departures. They concluded their campaign in third place with a mere two points.

Tom Saintfiet tendered his resignation as head of The Gambia mere moments after their exit, unable to replicate the success of their AFCON debut two years prior when they reached the quarter-finals.

While it came as less of a surprise, Algeria parted ways with Djamel Belmadi and Jalel Kadri resigned as manager of Tunisia. Additionally, Ivory Coast took swift action after finishing third in Group A.

Jean-Louis Gasset bore the consequences of their defeats against Equatorial Guinea, the most significant losses in his team’s history, transforming eager anticipation into chagrin among the Elephants’ supporters. Strangely, Ivory Coast still managed to qualify after Gasset’s departure.

Meanwhile, the Confederation of African Football imposed an eight-match ban and a $10,000 fine on Tanzania coach Adel Amrouche, leading to his subsequent dismissal by the Tanzania Football Federation.

5 real UPSETS

The Ivory Coast, serving as the host nation, found themselves on the brink of elimination, while unexpected underdogs took center stage, overshadowing even the most celebrated players.

Despite their peculiar decisions both on and off the pitch, the hosts have miraculously secured a place in the quarter-finals after a thrilling 5-4 victory on penalties over the defending champions, Senegal, following a 1-1 draw, further intensifying the tournament’s excitement.

Another major upset unfolded when Bafana Bafana clashed with Morocco, Africa’s top-ranked team, in a quest to secure a spot in the quarter-finals. It seemed improbable for a Southern African Development Community (SADC) nation to stand a chance against a team boasting European-based stars such as Ashraf Hakimi, Youssef En-Nesyri, Azzedline Ounahi, and Nayef Aguerd, among others. However, against all odds, Bafana managed to withstand the pressure posed by the formidable team, securing victory through beautifully executed goals by Evidence Makgopa and Tebogo Mokoena.

Cape Verde also emerged as a surprise contender, with their AFCON campaign featuring a 2-1 victory over the formidable Ghana, a 2-2 draw against Egypt, and a 1-0 win over Mozambique, ensuring their progression to the round of 16. Building on these heroic performances, the Blue Sharks of Cabo Verde defeated Mauritania by a single goal, securing a place in the quarter-finals where they are set to battle Bafana for a spot in the semi-finals.

Adding to the excitement, DR Congo exhibited resilience in their approach against Egypt, forcing the game to penalties which they won 7-8.

105 GOALS…still counting

The 2023 AFCON has not only witnessed the best scoring ratio in over a decade, but it has also set a new record for shot-to-goal conversion rate since 2010, with an impressive 12.3% of the 521 shots taken finding the back of the net in 44 out of 52 matches played.

Moreover, the total number of goals scored has reached 105 with seven matches remaining, surpassing the previous record of 102 set in the 2019 AFCON held in Egypt. Notably, Emillo Nsue of Equatorial Guinea currently leads the scoring charts with five goals, having achieved the first AFCON hat-trick since 2008, marking a significant milestone in the competition.

Nsue’s remarkable performance underscores the high level of talent on display at the 2023 AFCON, which has also boasted the highest goals per game ratio on record (2.7) since 2008. Furthermore, he has etched his name in history as the oldest player to score a hat-trick in an AFCON match, among other individual milestones achieved during the Group Stage.

 

Regrettably, Nsue and his team have been eliminated from the tournament after a crucial missed penalty cost them an advantage, leading to a late winner for Guinea. The question now remains: will anyone be able to surpass Nsue’s impressive goal-scoring feat?

131 YELLOW cards & 9 RED cards

The intensity and excitement of AFCON 2023 has been a delight for football lovers. As the tournament progresses, the number of yellow and red cards issued by referees serves as a testament to the tight competition and adds to the excitement.

After 44 out of 52 matches played, the referees have already issued 131 yellow cards and nine red cards. These statistics indicate the fierce competition and the high stakes involved in each game. The yellow and red cards serve as a reflection of the players’ determination, passion, and sometimes, their frustration. The referees’ strict enforcement of the rules ensures that the matches remain fair and competitive, adding to the overall intensity of the tournament.

The issuance of yellow and red cards also demonstrates the physicality and aggression displayed by the teams. AFCON is known for its robust style of play, where players exhibit their strength and skill to gain an advantage. The referees’ vigilance in penalizing fouls and misconducts ensures that the matches maintain a balance between competitiveness and fair play. This intensity on the field keeps the spectators on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating the outcome of each match.

The Delight of Football Lovers

The tight and intense nature of AFCON 2023 undoubtedly adds to the delight of millions of football lovers who tune in to witness this showpiece event. The passion and dedication exhibited by the players resonate with fans, creating a sense of unity and excitement. The tournament becomes a platform for supporters to rally behind their respective nations, fostering a sense of national pride and camaraderie.

Moreover, the potential for surprises in AFCON 2023 further enhances the delight of football lovers. Nations such as Cape Verde, Mali, Guinea, and Angola, who have never experienced AFCON glory, have the opportunity to make history. The prospect of an underdog nation emerging victorious in the end adds an element of unpredictability and excitement to the tournament. Football enthusiasts revel in witnessing the rise of unexpected heroes and the triumph of the underdogs, making the competition even more captivating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BFL scuffle incites Rakgare

17th January 2024

The leadership scuffle within the Botswana Football League (BFL) has reached a critical point, with the Botswana Football Association (BFA) refusing to meet with Minister of Sports, Tumiso Rakgare, to discuss the ongoing crisis. The BFA argues that government interference would violate FIFA statutes and believes that there are internal structures in place to resolve the matter.

Minister Rakgare expressed his concern over the situation, as he believes that the feud could disrupt national football activities. He wanted to understand the details of the conflict and the mechanisms in place to bring about a resolution. The Ministry of Sports has stated that they will summon the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) to discuss how to proceed in dealing with an affiliate funded by the government that chooses to dictate its relationship with the government.

In the midst of this turmoil, BFL chairman Nicolas Zakhem, who had previously taken the shareholders to court to challenge his removal from the board, has been suspended from football activities by fellow board member Tebogo Sebego. Sebego cited Article 26 of the BFL constitution, which aligns with BFA and FIFA statutes, stating that disputes within football should not be taken to court until all prescribed procedures have been exhausted. Zakhem’s suspension has caused another board member, Jagdish Shah, to resign from the BFL board.

An emergency meeting between the BFA, BFL board, and shareholders was held, but it failed to yield any results. Shareholders threatened to boycott the meeting if Zakhem was allowed to participate, leading to further tensions. As a result, the premier league and first division leagues remain suspended until certain issues are addressed.

BFA WARN CLUBS AS THE IMPASSE CONTINUE

In a letter signed by BFA CEO Mfolo Mfolo, part of the letter reads, “As we approach the upcoming League matches, we are writing to emphasize the critical importance of your attendance and active participation. Attending League matches is not only a responsibility but a fundamental obligation outlined in the statues and regulations of governing football in Botswana.

Mfolo further said the mediation meeting which was held on the 10 January 2024 to facilitate a constructive dialogue among the concerned parties, aiming for an amicable resolution failed to yield the desired success.

“During the mediations, the parties reiterated their right to suspend league activities until their demands are met. This assertion poses significant challenges to the overall governance and operational stability of the league.” Mfolo said.

The BFA chief further said its imperative to note that the threat to suspend the league activities is in violation of several provision outlined in the BFA Constitution and the Memorandum of Agreement between the BFL and BFA.

It remains to be seen as to how the conflict will be resolved. The leadership scuffle within the BFL has escalated to the point where the BFA refused to meet with the Minister of Sports to discuss the crisis.

The BFA argues that government interference would violate FIFA statutes and believes that internal structures are in place to resolve the matter. Meanwhile, the suspension of BFL chairman Zakhem and the resignation of board member Shah have added to the turmoil.

 

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BAA’s Quest for Olympic Medals: A P5 million riddle

17th January 2024

The Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) is gearing up for the highly anticipated Paris Olympics 2024. With a history of producing exceptional athletes, Botswana has seen success in previous Olympic Games, including a silver and bronze medal. However, with only five male runners having qualified thus far and no female athletes making the cut, the BAA is facing financial challenges in their pursuit of two medals. STAFF WRITER TSHEPO KEHIMILE explores the BAA’s need for P5 million in funding, the current state of qualification, and the importance of financial support for athletes’ preparations.

The BAA has estimated that they will need more than P5 million to adequately prepare their athletes for the Paris Olympics. This funding will be directed towards athletes’ training camps and preparations to ensure they are ready for the Games in July. In an interview with this publication, BAA Vice President Administration, Oabona Theetso said they will need a financial assistance from the government. “The money will be directed to athletes’ preparations and training camps to ensure they are ready when the Olympics Games begin in July,” he explained.

The BAA Vice President Administration has emphasized the importance of financial assistance from the government to meet these requirements.

As of now, only five male runners have qualified for the Olympics, while no female athletes have secured their spots. The BAA had set a target of 12 athletes for the main event, raising concerns about whether the current qualifiers will be enough to bring home the targeted two medals. Theetso remains confident that more athletes can still qualify if additional resources are made available.

Looking back at previous Olympic Games, Botswana’s performance has been a mix of successes and missed opportunities. In 2012, Nijel Amos won Botswana’s first Olympic medal, a silver in the 800m event. In 2021, the Men’s 4x400m relay team which comprised of Isaac Makwala, Bayapo Ndori, Zibane Ngozi and Baboloki Thebe secured a bronze medal in Tokyo. However, in previous Games, Botswana failed to bring home any medals despite sending teams of athletes.

The absence of female athletes who have qualified for the Olympics thus far is a significant concern for the BAA. This is the first time since 2004 that no female athletes have made the cut at this point. However, Theetso assures that Botswana has capable female athletes who can reach the Olympics, as it is every athlete’s dream to compete at such a prestigious event.

So far, Letsile Tebogo (100m & 200m), Bayapo Ndori (400m), Leungo Scotch (400m), Busang Collen Kebinatshipi (400m) and Tshepiso Masalela (800m) are the only athletes who have already qualified for the upcoming Olympics which prompts a question of whether these lads will be enough to bring the targeted two medals home.

From the look of things, the Botswana Athletics Association is facing a financial challenge as they strive to secure two medals at the Paris Olympics 2024. With only five male runners having qualified and no female athletes making the cut, the BAA is in need of P5 million in funding to support athletes’ preparations and training camps. While Botswana has seen success in previous Olympic Games, the absence of female qualifiers and the limited number of current qualifiers raise concerns about achieving the desired results. Financial support from the government is crucial to ensure that Botswana’s athletes are adequately prepared to compete at the highest level. With dedication, hard work, and the necessary resources, Botswana’s athletes have the potential to make their mark at the Paris Olympics 2024.

 

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