Former Zebras midfielder-cum-striker Moemedi Moatlhaping has been instrumental in the Extension Gunners good run of form, netting three goals in the team’s four opening games. After a lacklustre arrival at Lobatse based outfit and an unhappy spell at Gaborone United, it looks like the former Township Rollers man has found his scoring boots at the right time.
If Extension Gunners is to challenge for the title this season, they will need to be guaranteed one thing- a good supply of goals. The team arguably had its best league start in many years. With Moatlhaping finding his magic touch again, Mapantsola finally have a shot at bringing to an end Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers’ league dominance.
A few weeks ago, Moatlhaping was not in the plans of Gunners technical team and had already packed his bags in search of a new home. That was until new coach Keitumetse ‘Pio’ Paul changed his mind and recalled the former Bay United striker.
Moatlhaping has repaid his mentor’s faith on him, scoring three goals in three appearances. It is certainly clear that the Gunners team may mould its play around the lanky striker, entrusting him with the responsibility of being a key man.
In the last league encounter, in which Extension Gunners defeated Gaborone United 2-1, his teammates made efforts to play to his strength. Floating crosses in the box for him to finish with his deadly weapon- his head. Jomo has a knack of conjuring goals with his head even in the strangest positions.
This season, Jomo will be assisted by Boitshoko “Mbayi” Zikhale who has rejoined the team from Gilport lions (formerly BMC). Zikhale, who established himself at Falcons FC and Uniao Flamingo Santos as a player was deployed in the right-wing by Paul, in the traditional 4-4-2 formation, but his versatility will see him also being called regularly to partner Jomo upfront as a target man.
Paul currently prefers Mogomotsi 'Jafta' Mokoka as the target man, while Moatlhaping plays behind him as a second striker, a position he blossomed on as a player in his early days. During his early days at Township Rollers, Moathaping had an enterprising partnership with veteran striker Tshepiso “Sox” Molwantwa.
The last five years of his career have been inconsistent and as a result, he has been in and out of the national team set-up. He last appeared in a Zebras shirt in 2012 and ever since then he has been regularly absent.
The Zebras national team coach, Peter Butler has been clear that youngsters will get the nod in his selection for the national team, but that does not necessarily shut the doors for the 30 year old Moshupa born goal poacher.
Moatlhaping’s career which took off well was hampered by discipline issues which cost him progress given his talent. Before leaving for South Africa’s PSL for the second spell in 2009, he had an impressive season at Mochudi Centre Chiefs, but his second home coming was not impressive.
He returned to join Gaborone United, but his relationship with management saw his falling out of favour and failing to net regularly for The Reds. After partying ways with United, he headed south to join Extension Gunners.
Beyong all reasonable doubt, Moatlhaping is a capable, well nurtured and versatile player who began his national team career at an early age, he rose to dominance during his days at Township Rollers as a teenager.
He proved to be effective in different positions; industrious on the wing, sensational in attacking midfield, and deadly inside the 18 yard box. Against Mali during the 2012 AFCON where he was deployed on the wing, he was involved interchanging passes with Tsotso Ngele, before adroitly laying the final ball to the Mamelodi Sundowns man to clinically finish.
Moatlhaping is also not a sissy player. His work rate is always impressive, hard in tackles and always putting pressure on defenders. Against GU, he got his goal from an unlikely situation. He converted a half-baked scoring opportunity when he lurched into the pass, putting pressure on the goalkeeper as he blocked Phoko’s clearance into GU’s net.
Moatlhaping has also been a leader from early age. He captained both the National Under-20 and Under-23 where he formed a solid partnership with Jerome Ramatlhakwana and Kekaetswe Moloi. His experience will be instrumental for Paul’s title chasing side.
At 19, Jomo was drafted into the senior national team by the then Zebras mentor Jelusic Veselin. Though a regular goal scorer at Township Rollers, Veselin preferred him in the attacking midfield role, getting a start in the absence of Masego Ntshingane.
Before long, the 21 year old lad was acquired by Premier Soccer League (PSL) giants Platinum Stars together with Phenyo Mongala. But he returned to rollers soon, before heading to resurgent Mochudi Centre Chiefs the following season where he reached a freakish scoring form.
Moatlhaping had his best spell ever at Centre Chiefs during the 2010/11 season in which he scored 30 times to finish the league as top goal scorer. His free goal scoring season saw him being the only local striker to rattle the net on such occasions. Former Township Rollers striker Terence Madanza (who scored 31 goals the previous season) being the only only man to better him in that respect.
In recent times, it has proved to be a difficult task for strikers to reach the 30 goal mark. With three goals under his belt so far, Jomo can strive to emulate his 2010/11 scoring form and perhaps help Ezi-Mnyama to their first league victory in two decades.
The Botswana Football League (BFL) house has never known peace since its establishment in 2020. The company’s directors and shareholders, built to professionalise the elite league, are seemingly in a wild goose chase, leaving footballers’ dreams to shatter amid ‘man-made’ sporting adversity.
The BFL titanic has hit an iceberg, and the stewards and captains of this ship are struggling to bring it to calmer waters. This infighting and militancy have attracted the eye and wrath of the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, whom sources say is readying himself to prepare a tell-all meeting with the 16 premier league clubs chairpersons in the next coming weeks.
It is said that the Minister is concerned by the lack of progress at the league that should be ordinarily a flagship of Botswana football. As the Minister of Sports, Rakgare is disappointed by the crusade of blames and figure pointing at the boardrooms while essential issues like sponsorship and safe return to play are not adequately addressed.
It is said that the Minister has silently observed that the league house is moving in circles, and time wasted never returns. He is shocked that these chairpersons are incurring unnecessary costs paying players, yet they delay the return of football. When approached for clarity, the Minister could only say he is on leave and will only talk about sports matters when he resumes duty.
“I am not going to comment on anything concerning sport; for now, I am currently on my leave days to charge my batteries; talk to me after two weeks or so,” he briefly commented via a telephone interview. To this date, the BFL board has had two chairmen in as a space of seven months. Township Rollers boss Jagdish Shah was its maiden chairman during its formative stage, and Nicholas Zakhem assisted him.
It said significant progress was made to source sponsors, but what later led to factions and divisions inside the board is not adequately established. When Shah was removed, Aryl Ralobala was installed as the second chairman, but his stay has been rocky right from the beginning.
He was confronted with taxing sponsorship and broadcasting deals but what would later complicate his tenure is the burning issue of a mooted loan agreement with the Botswana Football Association(BFA). All these combined were complicated by the inability of the previous board to proceed with a smooth handover.
The BFL structure was first established in August 2020. One of its mandates was to divorce itself from the football association and negotiate key sponsorships for itself. This autonomous idea was rubber-stamped at the previous BFA general assembly.
Once the BFL fully gained independence, BFA was to give it a playing licence, and the FA will have a minor share of the profits made within a football calendar. In this company, all the 16 premier league clubs have equal shares. But at the end of every season, relegated clubs transfer their shares to newly-promoted clubs.
The spirit of brotherhood at Lekidi Football Centre has indeed fallen apart. Evidence of this development emanated at the recent National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting where the Botswana Football Association (BFA) is reported to have repeatedly fluffed lines to bring football’s most shrewd schemer, Nicolas Zakhem, to book for what they term ‘undermining leadership.’
The association is said to have noted with utmost concern that Zakhem, the chief investor at Gaborone United, has on several accounts, poured scorn over BFA leadership for failing football and went on to call for their resignation as things continue to fall apart.
Moreover, the Lebanese business mogul has come out from the shell and punched holes on the administrative head of the newly formed establishment, Botswana Football League (BFL), arguing that, they too, have fallen by the wayside while attempting to professionalize the local football.
Wary of these continuous onslaughts by the Zakhem, BFA feels the man is out of order and ought to be hauled before red burning coals for undermining leadership. Sources say the association wants the ethics committee to apply its mind over Zakhem’s previous uttering and tame him for good.
Zakhem, whom football observers agree was the kingmaker as MacLean Letshwiti, and his troops triumphed over Tebogo Sebego’s allies at BFA general election held in October 2020, is believed to have fallen out of favour with the Letshwiti regime. The proof of the pudding was when he ate up Letshwiti administration during an interview on Gabz FM roughly two weeks back.
However, the association’s NEC is said to be torn apart as relationships continue to decay. Reports suggest that quite a handful of them are not entertaining the idea of reprimanding Zakhem, and even if push comes to shove, it is not the mandate of the NEC to spell a final determination on him. At the same time, judicial bodies of the association are available and functioning.
The Zakhem issue, burning as it is, saw Letshwiti’s troops coming face to face with him for the first time since assuming office. Sources claim that the members were not coy about calling a spade a spade that the BFA boss is also out of his mandate by ruling with an iron fist and should try by all means to uphold the constitution of the association. Indications are that the members are not impressed by the current state of football affairs and want a plethora of issues to address other than tailing and chastising other football administrators in the name of ill-discipline.
However, sources say there is strong determination to bring Zakhem to book by hook or crook. Meanwhile, the BFA has allowed their legal advisor to study the matter and advise on the way forward. When approached for comment, BFA legal advisor Pako Moakofi said he was not able to speak as he was still attending to his health issues.
The issue of Zakhem is also said to have lifted the lid off another NEC member’s matter. Last year, Carlos Sebina, former Tafic Chairman, was relieved of his duties after being accused of conniving with the enemy to betray and sabotage the association. The decision came when Botswana was preparing to play a crucial tie against Zimbabwe in AFCON 2021 qualifiers. Sebina was the medical committee chairman and had previously won the NEC seat as the only member from Sebego’s side.
Zakhem himself is out of the country and cannot be reached to provide further clarity, but sources close to him told WeekendSport that he is fully aware of the ongoing matter. It is no longer in doubt that BFA elephants are fighting, and it is the football grass that will suffer the most.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) contends that football is an industry that employs everyone from different sectors of the economy and will argue this point until the COVID-19 Task Force fully comprehends it.
The move comes to the fore after the association, this week, held an emergency meeting with Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) to deliberate on possibilities of allowing footballers to resume training. At the same time, sporting activities remain suspended as a COVID-19 containment measure.
The BFA, BNSC held a meeting to establish the impact of suspending sporting activities on football. The BFA argues that considerable effort was initiated to return to play. Although sources say it was the first phase of deliberations, another meeting is scheduled for Wednesday with the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport, and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, to further find a common understanding.
Sources contend that although the atmosphere was a bit tense at the beginning, discussions were fruitful, with the Ministry of Sport promising to discuss the matter with the Coordinator of the Task Force, Dr. Kereng Masupu.
The uptight mood cascaded when Rakgare complained about the leakage of confidential information to third parties, especially the media. It will seem the minister was not happy at how the BFA meeting together with theirs was to be known by outside parties before a conclusion is reached. The ministry expressed its frustration concerning the slow progress of BFA as far as the resumption of football was concerned.
A senior administrator in the ministry complained that BFA was dilly-dallying even before the government suspended sporting activities. When asked to give clarity, the BFA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Goabaone Taylor said it would be remiss of her to talk about the details of the meeting, especially when the time was not right.
“Even the ministry had to gag us because we find our confidential information littered everywhere. I am afraid that is not right, and should it persist, it can damage the confidence and the talks we are having with our partners,” she said when asked about her presence during the Wednesday meeting.
BFA, in the meantime, says their position paper does not change. They have argued that football is the only code that employs masses, and the continuation of sports ban hampers and jeopardizes contracts with various stakeholders, including players and sponsorships. Moreover, BFA says companies are reluctant to commit to football because the ban brings much confusion on the way forward.
Furthermore, the association argues that football is the biggest revenue spinner, estimated to be around P55 million. They say the game employs over 3 000 people directly and provides over 9 000 indirect jobs countrywide. Over the years, when football was in full flight, the game raked about P 26 000 000,00 in sponsorships while 4 000 000,00 came from broadcasting deals.
BFA will therefore play a waiting game while the suspension comes to an end in a week and will hope the game will never be clamped down again, which will allow the 2021-22 season to commence.