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.
Events that recently unfolded in the athletics world locally point only to possibility – Letsile Tebogo and Maungo Matlhaku are well groomed to receive the baton from Isaac Makwala and Lydia Jele respectively.
The two athletes sprinted to new local track records, smashing those set by their seniors.
As it is the norm in athletics, the biggest mistake these two athletes could make is to drop the baton. The two youngsters must not look back, they must steeplechase – clear all the hurdles so they may surpass the feet achieved by their seniors.
Letsile Tebogo announced his arrival in scintillating fashion recently. Barely two years after smashing Thebe’s 200m national record of 21:25 during Gaborone Games in 2019, this past weekend the young lad obliterated yet another 100m national record of 10.20 seconds. For a long time the record was held by the country’s iconic athlete Isaac Makwala.
Tebogo set a new record, completing the race in 10.14 seconds. Tebogo, who is currently under Lefika Athletics Club, came into the meet, organised by Sports View Runners Club, with a personal best of 10.49 seconds.
However, the new national record was not good enough for Tebogo to qualify for the Olympic Games as he needed to clock 10.05 seconds; which is the Olympic qualifying entry under the 100meters category. For his efforts, he received P1 000 cash and a trophy.
Under the women’s category, Leungo Matlhaku also stole the show after clocking 11.24 seconds to replace Lydia Jele’s national record of 11.39 seconds which she set in May 2019.
When speaking to local media after the race, Matlhaku assured the nation to expect the best performance at the upcoming events as she aims to qualifying for Tokyo Olympics and World Championships.
The sensational 100m sprinter said: “Even though after almost nine months without training, performance was testimony of the fact that the best was yet to come.”
Matlhaku noted that setting new national records was an indication that athletes were at their peak performance and that the upcoming national meets would be appetizing with the positive performance.
This week WeekendSport caught up with Tebogo, who expressed his gratitude to the national team athletes as the pillar behind his strength since they encouraged him to work hard. He agrees that he needs to habituate himself to hard work.
He said Saturday’s performance helped him realise his dream of qualifying for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics which was postponed last year due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
“For me to qualify for the upcoming Olympics under 100 meters category, I will have to clock 10.05 seconds which is qualification entry while under 200meter is 20.24 seconds,” he shared.
When quizzed how Covid-19 has affected his preparation he said: “It has affected us badly as preparation training for the competition was halted, but the lockdown imposed was however useful as I used the period to work out on my strength which are necessary for a sprinter.”
Tebogo started seriously taking part in athletics in 2016 when he was still at primary school. At the time he was under the guidance of former national team coach, Mogomotsi Otsetswe.
In 2016 during Botswana Primary School Sports Association (BOPSSA) competitions, he won three gold medals in 100m, 200m and 4x100m relays.
Despite not winning anything the previous year, 2018 saw him come back well prepared and went on to win two gold medals under the 200m category and 4X100m relays. He also won a silver medal after a sterling performance in the 100m race during the Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) national finals.
Tebogo went on to win the gold medal after clocking an impressive time of 21:12, qualifying for under 20 World Athletics Championships which was to be held in Kenya last year but was postponed yet again due to corona virus.
Over the last 10 years, Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) has been famed for its consistency when it comes to producing the country’s top athletes, who are dominating and widening the competition gap with other sporting codes.
The code success expresses itself in elite talents the likes of Baboloki Thebe, Nigel Amos, Amantle Montsho and Karabo Sibanda to mention but a few.
These top talents made sure athletics remain at the top in this country.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership is devastated after Ineos Group Ltd, a British multinational chemicals company, somersaulted on their initial promise to build a multi-million Pula football academy and instead travelled up north to pitch camp in Ivory Coast.
This publication has learnt that Ineos Group which had signed contracts with the association was at a very advanced stage to erect a P120 million state-of-the-art academy in a plot located behind the national stadium in Gaborone.
According to close sources, Ineos however grew frustrated by Botswana’s lengthy and haphazard processes and procedures that led them nowhere and only served to waste more time. Ineos were reportedly irked by the delay and dumped BFA before the end of last year.
Things took a nasty twist in April of 2018 when Botswana leadership reshuffled the cabinet. Ministry of Sport faces therefore changed as Thapelo Olopeng was replaced by Tshekedi Khama.
It is said that under Olopeng, processes were fast tracked as the cabinet was briefed, and endorsed the development. Things started moving at a snail’s space after Khama took office. It emerges that the then Minister had to freeze every move after reports came thick and fast that some National Executive Committee members were almost secret shareholders of the academy.
The matter was so volatile that it reached the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) offices for further investigations.
While that seemingly turned off Ineos group, the straw that would broke the camel’s back was the realisation that some appointed architects had dragged the association to court for failing to adhere to agreed terms.
However, one high ranking BFA official said that indeed Ineos group has abandoned talks and have up and left.
“I do not want to dwell much on the story of corona virus effects, but what I can tell you is that there was a lot of petty talks surrounding this academy, and this was never going to take us anywhere. We were dealing with professionals and they are gone,” the NEC member said.
It was indicated that BFA was at a stage of re- engaging the British chemical engineer turned financier and industrialist, Sir James Ratcliffe to start pumping money into the project that was to run for a period of two years.
Ratcliffe had frequented the country on three occasions, precisely at Lekidi Football Centre, since MacLean Letshwiti assumed the BFA power seat in 2016.
The main reason for the visits, WeekendSport had learnt was to discuss setting up the academy as well as to assess the possible piece of land where the academy would be set up.
The state-of-the-art facility, according to the site layout included-among others-accommodation for up to 80 people; indoor training facility; fully equipped gym; Restaurant for both academy and public meals. High tech media conference centre that can seat 80, 3 x full size top of range FIFA approved turf fields, artificial turf 5-a-side fields, boardroom and office space and on site medical services (doctor and physiotherapists).
In addition, the project will help upgrade the netball facilities as well as install a multi-sport zone for public use.The facility was not only to be used for football but was to be a commercial structure which would be used to generate money to run itself.
BFA said the objectives of the academy was to provide young footballers from Botswana an opportunity to transform into better footballers at a world class facility in their home country.
Furthermore, it was to allow the best players to travel to Lausanne, Switzerland- a country that also houses the FIFA headquarters- to complete a further two years of academy training and education that will eventually avail them the opportunity to become professional footballers in Europe and elsewhere.
Botswana Olympic medallist, Nijel Amos has written to the Botswana National Sport Commission requesting permission to sell the silver medal he won at London 2012 Olympics.
BNSC is currently seized with the request and contemplating the best solution. According to sources at BNSC, the sports organisation is unwilling to give in to Amos’ demands of selling the medal as they believe it is a national treasure.
It is the first medal the country won at the Olympics- a major sports competition.”They have turned him down and are planning to find ways of assisting him as he said in the letter that he is selling the medal to raise money for his charity and also to raise money for himself,” said a source.
“They have been in contact with him to see how they can assist him in that regard and should he turn them down they plan to buy the medal from him and put it either at the museum or somewhere where people can come and see the medal just like in other countries.”
The 27 year-old 800 meter athlete clinched Botswana’s first ever and only Olympic medal at the Summer Olympics in 2012 held in London, United Kingdom.
Amos confirmed to this publication that he has written to BNSC but he is yet to receive feedback from them. “I have to get permission before selling it. I am now waiting for them to give me feedback. I cannot tell you why I want to sell the medal out of respect because the matter is still being discussed,” said Amos.
Acting BNSC Chief Executive Officer, Tuelo Serufho confirmed that they have received the letter and are still finding possible ways of dealing with the issue since it is the first of its kind.
“We have not yet finalised on how to best deal with the issue as you are aware it is a very delicate matter and needs serious attention. We will find the best way to solve it and we hope to soon meet with the athlete and engage him on how to deal with it,” said Serufho.
Botswana made her Olympic debut in 1980, Moscow, Russia and only managed to get a silver medal in 2012 through Marobela born Amos who was a teenager at the time.
Amos clocked 1:41:73 seconds, behind Kenya’s David Rudish. The time turned out to be a set-up of some fierce competition between the two athletes since then till to now.