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.
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.
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.
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.