With the Botswana Premier League (BPL) reaching the halfway mark this weekend; four teams have emerged as relegation candidates. It is with certainty that at least two of the four will drop to the First Division by the end of this season. KETUMILE RAMATITI explores the reasons behind the dismal showing of the unlucky four.
It has been a norm in local football that those teams that gain promotion usually retrace their steps back to the dusty divisions when the season ends; this has been linked to tight or nonexistent budgets. However, this past season odds were defied with the likes of Orapa United, FC Satmos and Police XI proving that they are here to compete, which ultimately saw Satmos and Police feature in the Mascom Top 8.
Can the new boys emulate what their brothers did last season? The answer is certainly no, the new comers, Letlapeng and BR Highlanders future in the be-MOBILE Premier League seem to be in jeopardy together with perennial strugglers Notwane and former league champions Ecco City Greens. Records reveal that for a team to be safe from the relegation it should have accumulated 35 points or more, Uniao Flamingo Santos was dropped after collecting only 30 points last season.
LETLAPENG IS JUST NOT PREPARED Ramotswa based Letlapeng who started the league like a blossoming flower walloping Orapa United 2-0 has wilted off, registering losses every weekend. The team’s preparedness for top flight football has always been in question after gaining promotion to the premier league amid controversy as the second placed Black Forest appealed a matter in which they contended that ‘Rock of ages’ fielded a defaulter in their Division encounter.
This took away the concentration of the team from premier league and by the time the case was over, the league was calling. By then they haven’t made any notable signings to bolster their relatively inexperienced side, things were made miserable when they lost the services of four key players including prolific goal scorer Sadat Sinare and Tshiamo Moreetsi.
Letlapeng however, was able to rope in former BMC defender Patrick Mathaba, Emmanuel Machinya, Thabang Dira and Michael Pillar to strengthen their side, the quartet cannot offer that much as the team is currently languishing at the bottom of the league table with only eight points.
The team has so far conceded a whopping 26 goals while scoring only 16, their defense marshaled by Mathaba and Mompoloki Rangwang is always a suspect more especially that their goalkeeper Tumiso Mashakola is new to the stage. The team has also parted ways with the mentor who stirred them to premier league elevation Thaloba Nthaga, and brought on board Nelson Olebile to take charge, this could have also contributed to their poor showing.
The team’s top goal scorer Koketso ‘Shikabala’ Mokgantutswane has netted three goals; this has prompted them to look for an experienced striker in the coming transfer window in January.
According to the club Chairman Sidney Magagane, they will be active in the market as they are also looking for an experienced defensive and attacking midfielder in a bid to bring stability in the team and to guide the youngsters. However, the team was able to convince Seabelo Express and Temo holdings to help them financially at the beginning of the season and thus far despite being newcomers the team has handled players’ welfare issues well. Chance of survival: 3/10
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE FOR BR HIGHLANDERS? Another side that is possibly left with only 15 games in the top flight football is BR Highlanders. They are not totally new to this level of football as they featured in the 2012/13 season after entering through the backdoor following the infamous Police XI, Security Systems and BFA debacle.
The team has made a return to the be-MOBILE premier league. Just like their peers, Letlapeng, the Mahalapye side have parted ways with their former gaffer, Paul Moyo and replaced him with his former assistant Tebogo Mokute. The team chairman, Lucky Buisanyang said ever since the sacking of Moyo the results are now coming to the team.
Stimela as they are affectionately called, shocked many when they beat Nico United before downing championship chasers BMC something which gave them hope that ‘everything is possible’.
They are currently sitting precariously on position 14 with 11 points. It is the most conceding team in the league after collecting 32 balls from the back of the net, they have a negative 19, and they scored only 13 goals, an unsatisfying number of goals for a team that is new. The team’s top goal scorer, Lucky Vundla has only scored five goals.
Chairman, Buisanyang said they will look for a striker in the coming window because their main undoing is the frontline. In terms of finances the team is not struggling that much despite playing their home games in Serowe. Botswana Railways provides transport for them; they only spend P4, 500 for their camps. Chance of survival: 4/10
ECCO CITY GREES EMBARASSING FTOWN Francistown’s only remaining premier League side could kiss the premier league goodbye. The 2006/07 league champions, Ecco City Greens are currently embarrassing the second city citizens week in and week out. Ever since they were dumped by BMC, the parastatal butcher, life has never been easy for Mamoja diskie as they endured a mass exodus of players before the commencement of this season. The players went for greener pastures.
Zecco Makafiri, Emmanuel Nlu, Gosaitse Manuel, Tendai Nyamuzi, Keabetswe Jenamiso are some of notable players that left the Francistown side. Currently the team’s core players are students and the reason why results are not coming is because they usually busy engaged with their academic work and some football pundits have attributed the current Ecco resurrection to the youngsters’ availability owing to school recess.
The team is banking on the experience of Malepa Bolelang to turn their fortunes around. They have also parted ways with their gaffer Aupa Kowa. They have given the reigns to Junior Molapi the younger brother of their former mentor Atshele Molapi. The team is sitting uncomfortably in position 15, after accumulating nine points from 14 outings; Ecco’s defence is also cited as a cause for concern as they have let in 28 goals.
Their frontline is not that bad as both Bolelang and Kebaatho Omaatla have scored four goals apiece, but Mamoja can always survive the chop provided they utilize the upcoming window. But some pundits wonder if they have the muscle to bring players they want. In the past Ecco spokesperson promised that they will partner with certain investors in Francistown. But to this day they are still cooking something! Maybe Ecco will be refurbished side next year. Chance of survival: 5/10
NOTWANE: PERENNIAL STRUGGLERS The perennial strugglers, Notwane could also make history by playing in the unfashionable lower division next season for the first time since its formation 59 years ago. The past three seasons have been ugly ones for the side. They depend mostly on rejects from other teams and youngsters from their development structures; this has not been fruitful in the past as the team has emulated what Extension Gunners used to do, without success.
Notwane has come up with a Metropolitan Insurance initiative to try to raise funds for the team but surprisingly the team supporters have rejected the idea which makes their financial life very wobbly. Understandably, Sechaba is in position 11 with only 12 points; the team is the third highest conceding in the league after letting in 26 goals and scoring 17. Their top goal scorer Emmanuel Masisi has scored three goals, a sign that the striking department is also poor.
To make matters worse the team’s executive committee is said to have been torn apart after rise of club chairman, Arnold Somolekae to chair the Premier League board which has not been given blessings by other committee members. This again is expected to push the team further down the log as administrative issues always impact negatively on team performance.
Fortunately the team will play only one game before the Christmas break and expectations are that the team will be a rejuvenated side next year. Chance of survival: 5/10
Meanwhile Motlakase Power Dynamos is also not safe from the relegation as they rooted in position 12 with 12 points. But they are not new at this dog fight.
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.