An engrossing meeting held on Wednesday evening between Township Rollers interim committee and now furious major share-holder, Jagdish Shah is likely to tilt the team’s position and perhaps trigger its dizzying fall from the ‘high-way’ unless Shah himself cools off.
WeekendSport sources say the committee-where David Spencer Mmui and Mookodi Seisa are the brains behind the negotiations phase- have proposed that the Indian born business mogul may continue financing the club until the end of the season before he thinks of stepping down.
It is said he reluctantly accepted the request but it came with some certain conditions. Sources are however uncomfortable with revealing Shah’s demands, but Rollers boardroom politics suggest that one of them is to push the long standing Somerset Gobuiwang out of the club.
It is said that Shah is furious and might be thinking of pulling the plug on his Rollers leadership as he cannot stand Gobuiwang’s name being mentioned every now and then. It is renowned that the society, at the time when Mmui was Chairman, agreed to give the business man 19% of their shares. That was after an agreement was reached to source for an investor.
Moreover, sources say the stance recently adopted by Gobuiwang to refuse to bow down from the club’s hierarchy has a two- fold defence. Firstly, the team has resolved to give Gobuiwang the team and have not, in any given day resolved to take it from his hands. The second reason is that Gobuiwang himself was instrumental in bringing Shah on board and therefore it cannot be a case of ‘teaching a fish how to climb a tree.’
However, not all in the committee want Shah to dump Township Rollers, but an attempt to reunite the two men is proving to be a futile exercise. Many are leaning towards Shah’s side because of his financial muscle while Gobuiwang has nothing other than membership to show.
This publication understands that Gobuiwang is contemplating taking the legal route, should attempts to wrestle power out of his hands see the light of day. This situation currently leaves the club at cross roads as Shah is pulling to one direction while Gobuiwang to the other.
However, fingers of blame point to the direction of the Molepolole bred man. He is accused of failing to honour his call of providing for the club as a share holder. His football ideology of recruiting players and later exporting them to highly established leagues does not excite his now enemy.
A transfer scam that revolves around one of Rollers goal keepers (now playing for BDF XI) Mwaapule Masule translates a bitter message to Gobuiwang’s detractors that his alleged debts and hunger to have quick cash are given precedence over the interest of the team.
According to letters seen by this publication, it is surfacing that Masule was made to believe that he was being loaned to BDF XI while the fact was that it was a transfer operation that occurred without him being in the know. Questions are rising regarding the motives behind Gobuiwang’s under hand dealings. When reached for comment, Gobuiwang would not comment. The Club‘s media liaison Phempheretlhe Pheto said, “We cannot disclose anything to the media as yet because negotiations are still on going to find a common understanding.”
The teams’ developmental path During the colonial era (Bechuanaland Protectorate) was governed by the British primarily from the administrative centre of Mafikeng, South Africa. With independence looming in the 1960s, a new capital had to spring up within the confines of Botswana’s borders and Gaborone was selected.
The government’s Public Works Department (PWD) workers, initially based at Lobatse, the transitional administrative centre, founded a football club. What had started as a social football team in 1961, ‘Mighty Tigers’ came to be organized into a football society in Gaborone in 1965, termed ‘Township Rollers Football Club.’ The PWD workers had been charged with building internal roads in Gaborone, then a small town, a ‘Township,’ and in building the roads, the workers used compacting equipment termed ‘Rollers.’
The Township Rollers logo adopted had an outlying design of a map of the early Gaborone roads the club founders built; Queens, Khama Crescent, Botswana Road, Independence Avenue, Kaunda Road, South Ring Road; and the ‘Rollers’ compacting equipment was depicted twice inside the logo, as well as a football and a soccer boot below them. The club name, nickname ‘Tse Tala’ (The Blues) and motto ‘Popa Popa ea ipopa’ completed the logo.
This original logo, used between 1965 and 2010 is now located at the centre of rebranded logo used over the past 5 years.
Club founders, the likes of Francis van Vuuren, worked with administrators like Mokhutshwane Sekgoma in building a great team around players like Clement ‘Captain Muller’ Muthelesi, Morwalela ‘Pro’ Seema, Mchuu ‘City’ Manyelela and Steering Matsila in the 1970s.
Player-coach Chibazo Kande led Rollers to the national league title in 1979 and 1980, then four titles in a row (1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985, still a national record), with players like Boyo Oris Radipotsane and Persia Diago. After the iconic Chibazo Kande passed away in a car accident, coach Ezekiel Mpofu added another title in 1987.
Under administrators like Justice Baleseng Baleseng, Noel Liau and Kgomotso Mogapi, Rollers went further to win more trophies, including the 1995 league title.â€¨But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Rollers fortunes plummeted. A disturbing trend had begun in the 1980s when BDF XI signed Popa stars including Sehularo ‘The Horse’ Pelekekae and Cocorico Mnese.
Resourced by the state, institutional sides like BDF XI, Mogoditshane Fighters (then an army side that won the league three times in a row under Major David Bright) and Police XI were starting to dominate Botswana club football. The traditional giants, Township Rollers and Gaborone United were societies who were often cash-strapped and could not offer players permanent jobs like the institutional sides.
Rollers and city rivals GU were both relegated in the early 2000s; a similar fate had befallen Mochudi Centre Chiefs in the mid 1990s. Rollers, founded as a football society, decided to have new arrangements where a holding company could nominate an investor to work with the society leadership in running the club.
The first such Managing Director was Puma Mathware, under whose stewardship Rollers won the First Division in their only season outside the top flight. The Blues proceeded to win the double- the Super League (now the Premier League) and Coca Cola Cup- in the first season after promotion, 2004-5.
In 2006 the club was handed over to a new Managing Director, Somerset Gobuiwang. Working with the society executive led by the then chairman David Spencer Mmui, Gobuiwang invested in the team and helped the Blues return to their glory days. The club won the 2010 and 2011 league titles, and further silverware including the 2010 Coca Cola Cup and 2012 inaugural Mascom Top 8.
For the first time in Botswana football, million-pula prize money was available, and match day ticketâ€¨prices had gone up. Club merchandise also went on sale. This period also saw Rollers having major transfer of players- Moemedi ‘Jomo’ Moatlhaping, Phenyo Mongala, Boitumelo Mafoko, Terrence Mandaza, Mogakolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele, and Kabelo Dambe – to South African PSL clubs.
The most challenging 50 days in Baboloki Thebe’s extra ordinary career have begun to roll in a countdown motion ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games. Thebe who is seen as heir to Isaac Makwala’s throne in the 400m race is expected to run down the clock and beat 44.9 seconds to book his qualification at the coming Olympic Games.
The indomitable 400m runner has between now and June 29th to achieve this monumental feat. The Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo, Japan from July 23rd to August 8th. There is a looming fear that the promising unconquerable runner might not make it as he has started training at the eleventh hour after spending much time on the side-lines due to social issues and a recurring knee injury.
The struggle to shrug off the rust of injuries and inactivity is believed to have resumed late and by the time the closing date nears, he might leave it too late.The 24 year old runner has since relocated to Ivory Coast to re-establish his old form that gave him a house-hold name both in local and global competitions.
There, the athlete will seek serious races until he finds the one that qualifies him to the tracks of Tokyo. All of these races should be within the IAAF diamond league rules and requirements for him to profusely benefit.
Thebe was conspicuously missing at Poland when Botswana’s famous 4X400M quartet scooped bronze and effectively securing a spot at Tokyo. The team, as usual was captained by Isaac Makwala who knows too well that Thebe has been, and is a significant threat at the world stages.
Before succumbing to injury, Thebe recorded an unimpressive time of 48.85. However, there is still hope for the talented star who left the country under a cloud after he allegedly sneaked out of camp together with one Onkabetse Nkobolo.
It is not highly maintained that the youngster will qualify but it is argued that, at this time of the year, most athletes are still shaking off their yester year rust and Thebe is no exception; he will soon get back to shape. Thebe has admitted that there is a lot of work to be done in the coming few days.
Athletics is a famously lonely sport, sometimes too hard to comprehend. It was the same talent of Thebe who once spoke of his struggles to train away from his families, and often by himself. One of the most fascinating facets of this discipline is that most athletes stand upon a start line, behind a run up, or in a thrower’s circle alone: for ten or twenty seconds, often times, it is their fate that lies solely in their own hands.
On many occasions now Thebe has trained hard and long to represent a country that should now be laden with both sprinting and long distance runner talent- and to re-write history. Time will tell if the young talent is able to live up to his full potential.
Amid the heightened public back lash and low lying protests from athletes concerning welfare and unfair treatment at global stages, it comes to light that sport performance in the country can reach greater heights if the incentive package document seen by WeekendSport is anything to go by.
In March of 2012, the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development liaised with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to work out and approve a budget for incentive packages for national team players.
The step was a necessary milestone that aided the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) to erect a long standing policy that dictates the best possible ways of rewarding athletes in various codes.The approved package sees a total of 29 sporting codes listed under 3 categories with different athletes getting varying amounts while on preparatory camps.
In Category 1, the approved package list football and volleyball as the two codes whose preparations can expand over a long period of time. It comes into the open that the monthly allowances per football player is P 1.500 while volleyball players get P 3.500 each. Moreover, all the players under these two codes are entitled to a benefit of a government-funded insurance premium cover of up to P 100 000 in medical expenses.
Furthermore, athletes enjoy death cover of up P 100 000 while a gratuity at 25% of total earnings is payable every four years.Category 2 lists netball, karate, softball, athletics, boxing and rugby. Of these six codes, each athlete receives P2000 for every match appearance.
These athletes also enjoy the same benefits of injury and death cover as codes listed in Category 1.A total of 21 sporting codes are listed in the last category. These include amongst others, chess, badminton, table tennis, motorsport, cricket, squash and swimming. For all these codes, the incentive package states that each player will get P 1.500 per cap. Again, the athletes of these codes retain the same benefits as those in category 1 and 2.
The incentive package document further lists down rewards set aside for athletes performing in regional, continental and world competitions.Individual performers partaking in regional competitions gets P 1 500 if they bring a bronze medal home. P 2000 is for silver medal while athlete is sure of P 2.500 for scooping a gold medal. The same amounts also apply to a group code.
The ante is upped a little high at continental games. The document states that individual athletes bringing home a gold medal will get P 25 000. Furthermore, an athlete winning a silver medal receives P 15 000 while P 10 000 is for a bronze category.
Rewards for performance at the world stage is that an athlete get P 100 000 for scooping a gold medal, P75 000 for silver and P50 000 for bringing a bronze medal home. Furthermore, an athlete is given P 10 000 for finishing within the top 4 places while an added P 5 000 is for those who complete the top 8 category. This is for both individual athletes and group codes.
The document further states in the last paragraph that rewards for setting or breaking competition records is available. If athletes break a regional record, they will be given P 10 000. A continental record set and broken will see an athlete winning P 20 000.
In the Commonwealth stage, a local athlete will be given P 30 000 while P 100 000 is for those who break and set new records both at Olympic Games and World competitions. Coaches are also rewarded and get 10% of what an athlete receives at various competition levels.
However, there are misgivings that the document is static and needs to be revised to match it with today’s standard practice. Calls are overwhelming that rewards must be improved especially for codes-like Athletics- who bring optimum results at global stage.
The document should also clearly state break downs of budget for preparatory competitions and rewards for each stage especially in a group code. When giving clarity, the acting Chief Executive Officer of BNSC, Tuelo Serufho, said that it is necessary to understand the document but is eager to go back to the boardroom and effect changes if need be.
“We must be careful when we compare codes, a lot of emphasis is needed to get to the conclusion of who is performing and is who is failing, but for all purposes of fairness, rewards are meant for everyone and can be triggered,” he said.
COVID-19 Task Force is said to be studying the proposition of Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) to re-open sport activities in a phased manner before the end of this month.
The Task Force is said to be operating under immense pressure to build and maintain the equilibrium of sport alongside the impact of corona virus in the country. The team is working behind closed doors following recommendations from BNSC and the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development that the relevant importance of sport together with its socio-economic value in Botswana’s circumstances can no longer be ignored.
This is also propagated by the recent scintillating performance by 4 x400 man national relay team. The quartet led by veteran Isaac Makwala scooped the bronze medal at the World Athletics Championship held in Poland last week. This feat was achieved despite the current lockdown imposed on sport.
Sources say the general recommendation from these sport organs is that sport activities must come back immediately but proper adherence to COVID -19 protocols must also be the number one priority. Furthermore, the sport organizations are believed to have recommended that there must be a phased approach to uplifting the suspension of the games.
Foremost, the Ministry argues that non-contact sports must return in the first phase. This includes among others, long tennis, table tennis, volley ball, athletics and chess. The second stage is to allow contact sport to come back to life where football is largely missed.
It is said the ministry has also attached the matrix involving all 40 sporting codes in the country that all give life to the proposed return to play guidelines. The matrix indicates that all 40 codes need to return to the field as soon as it is safe. Of these 40 codes, 22 of them have an urgent need to return to competition and this includes football.
BNSC argues in their position paper that the level of risk assessed and detected has seen only 10 sporting codes that are not in danger of spreading the virus. These are athletics, badminton, bowling, bridge, golf, motorsport, Paralympics, squash, and traditional sports games.
Football, wrestling, rugby, handball and hockey form part of the codes that act as catalysts in spreading the virus and a proper and strict adherence of protocols is needed.Meanwhile, it is said that football has met with BNSC high ranking officials to present their own case. The football association argues that industry has suffered a lot and there is an urgent need to return.
They say their venue across the value chain in Botswana is about P 55 million, employing approximately 3 000 people directly. About 9 000 jobs are created when the game is up and running, they said.