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.
Amid the confusion surrounding the date of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) elections, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, met with three presidential candidates on Thursday morning to discuss a plethora of problems bedevilling the domestic game.
The candidates are Maclean Letshwiti, the current President, Tebogo Sebego, the firm challenger of the BFA throne, together with Ookeditse Malesu who enters the race for the first time in his sporting career. There were other two unnamed officials who are said to be representatives from the sport ministry.
The Sport minister is said to have adopted a hard-nosed approach to register his disappointment and worry that the uncertainty of the upcoming elections have injured the administration of the local game.
Highly placed sources at the Sport ministry say that the minister’s ‘no gloves barred’ approach comes at the behest of the BFA’s constant negative headlines regarding their leadership style as of going into the elections.
It is said that Rakgare was also worried that the current administration is keeping the other two camps in the dark regarding the planning and processes bordering on election issues. This, he said has led to unnecessary speculations and back biting that is not needed to lift the game at a time when it is on its knees.
He was to rattle a few feathers at one incident when he called all the three leaders of the game to put their houses in order. As if that was not enough, the minister called on the three lobby groups to desist from serving personal interests but put focus on developing the game.
Interestingly, sources point out that the minister was livid but urged both Letshwiti and Sebego groups to refrain from tarnishing the good image of the ministry. This, he said in response to wide ranging allegations that he is taking sides as campaigns are ongoing.
The Sebego group accuses him of de campaigning Sebego and having a soft spot for Team Letshwiti while the same Letshwiti group is saying the same thing about the minister as having taking curious interest in Sebego camp.
The minister is alleged to have told the leaders that if they do not change their leadership style of protecting those looting public funds, his ministry would intervene even if it means attracting the wrath of FIFA, which is known for its notorious sanctions when countries do not toe the line. He urges BFA to be accountable at all the times they will cut the annual subventions that goes to them, sources claim.
This is not for the first time that the BFA was lectured on good governance. At one incident in 2015, former Minster of Sport Thapelo Olopeng dressed down the then Tebogo Sebego leadership regarding good governance.
BFA was at the time closely monitored by the ministry. Instead of the usual transactions that normally go through BFA, national team players received their allowances straight from government in the form of cheques. To demonstrate that government has taken a firm stand against BFA, players’ allowances were no longer routed through the association.
Nobody from the said meeting will address this publication enquiry all indicating that the consultation is never meant for public consumption.
If everything goes according to plan, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) will hold its annual general assembly next month through a virtual conference.
There has been much uncertainty as to how and when the congress will be held seeing as how COVID-19 protocols remain stringent on gatherings.
Sources speaking with this publication say the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the association has agreed to hold the congress within COVID-19 zones, consequently dispelling all the lingering doubts surrounding the life and soul of the assembly.
As it stands, there are nine COVID -19 zones in Botswana. The association is therefore contemplating to rely within four zones where live streaming will take centre stage for the first time in the history of BFA elections.
The congress was first billed for August 8th but was postponed to August 22nd. However, the second date could not see the light of the day as the country recorded a second rise of coronavirus cases that promptly led to greater Gaborone going into yet another lockdown.
The association has been procrastinating over the virtual congress idea with the election agenda remaining a sticky issue. Many advices came flooding that the association is free to make any decision about the congress but should be very careful not to compromise the integrity of the vote.
Sources indicate to this paper that the association is likely to rely on four COVID-19 zones, namely Gaborone, Francistown, Jwaneng and Palapye. The need to plant the meeting on virtual technologies hinges on the fact that the COVID -19 health protocols do not permit people to cross zones to hold meetings.
Information gleaned from various sources is that the association is looking to rely on four zones primarily because of the limited number of personnel under the electoral board. There are five members consisting of this committee and by the look of things; the association will not be allowed to outsource more election overseers at the eleventh hour. Sources argue that the whole cautious exercise is meant to avoid complaints that may arise after elections are held.
The virtual meeting comes after many failed attempts by the association to convince the Kereng Masupu led Task Force to give out a special dispensation. On many occasions, the Task Force refused to allow for the assembly to go on saying “football is not a priority.”
The assembly is expected to be held next month but the exact date still remains a subject of speculation. In the end, Tebogo Sebego will stand again for the second time to unseat Maclean Letshwiti while Ookeditse Malesu is standing for the first time to try and wrestle for BFA power.
The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, is eager to lead crunch talks that will consequently see Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) becoming one authoritative sport entity.
The appointment of one Tuelo Serufho to the plum position of BNSC Chief Executive Officer two week ago has further catalysed the intention to merge the sports bodies to avoid the long standing complaints of duplication of roles by the two.
Serufho was replacing Falcom Sedimo whose contract was not renewed.Serufho, ironically is the longest serving CEO of BNOC and also a board member of BNSC.“One of our aims is to form a robust sport body to centralize and improve decision making processes and maybe the time to resuscitate BNSC/BNOC merger is now,” Rakgare briefly shared.
The impending move is highly meant to improve effective functioning, governance and performance of sports in the country both locally and globally.Should this see the light of day, Botswana would have done itself a favour and it would start sending a handful of athletes to international competitions.
The amalgamation of BNSC/BNOC talks have been in the pipelines but discussions were aborted two years ago without clear reasons. The creation of this all-encompassing sport institution is overdue according to the minister.
“It is in fact our mandate to make sure this happens, it is overdue and by next year we hope to have finalised our position paper,” Rakgare added.The creation of the looming body is borne out of lessons learnt from various sports governance models around the world.
In South Africa, the sports ministry facilitated discussions to merge National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) and the South African Sports Commission. Their authoritative sports body is now called South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
With the South African model well in place, Botswana is urged to bench mark and create a sport body as a civic society-based organisation as required by the statutes of international sports bodies.The name of the local sport body is mooted and the minister refused to give a hint. But he is optimistic that the body will be the vanguard organization of sport in the country.
He emphasized that the sports organisation should be a purposeful guardian for governance and management of sports and be the required defining figure of the role of sports in Botswana’s communities.Talks to revamp and rebuild these sports bodies come at a time when BNSC is restructuring.
When Sedimo was still at the helm, he wanted to phase out some positions which he felt were unnecessary.BNSC receive close to 53 million Pula as grants from the government through the Ministry of Youth, Sports development and Culture empowerment while BNOC takes a figure a closer to that.