Is this the beginning of the end of ‘Friends of Football?’ The regime that drives Botswana football has been in power for almost two years, and there is some insistency, however faint that another term is ahead. But calls are beginning to take centre stage that the regime must step down.
In the cavernous Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC), at the elections, the BFA President Tebogo Sebego was having the time of his life.
It was July 2012 and the BFA Congress has just commenced. Sebego may as well be on a throne as delegates’ line-up to fawn over him. When a profit of thousands of Pula is announced for the previous year, BFA’s then Vice President (finance) Gabriel Ngele makes his way to the podium to eulogise BFA’s ‘miraculous’ financial results.
Then it’s the turn of Sebego, who announces a one-off payment to each of the16 assembled regions. “Are the regions happy?” exclaims Sebego, who is greeted by applause and delegates taking pictures on smartphones. Friends of Football, indeed, embraced one another.
Sebego, then in his 10th year at BFA – a career path that started as a chairman of Disciplinary Committee in 2004, then legal adviser in 2006, then, from 2012, president – has seen everything at the summit of local football. Since he joined FIFA in earlier 2000, the self-proclaimed lawyer has made the game richer, more powerful, and more widely watched than any sport in the country. As its leader, Sebego has become one of the most recognisable young men in this country.
Yet with fame came notoriety, and BFA together with Friends of Football, has suffered massive scandals. In 2012, Sebego’s campaign team was accused of paying bribes when he beat the low-lying David Fani to the BFA presidency. At the end of 2012, some of Friends of Football appeared to acknowledge that vote-buying had taken place but vehemently rejected any suggestion that the president was involved.
BFA and Friends of Football’s trusted foot soldier, Tariq Babitseng was thought to have been in ecstasy but later collapsed, leaving huge debts and a trail of allegations of corrupt practices linked to BFA officials. In the process it almost bankrupted the local football’s governing body. Lurid stories of ticket rackets from Premier League, vote-rigging and corruption proliferated.
Members of BFA Executive Committee (ExCo) seem to be typified by Babitseng, who seemed to be a close ally of the president. He has faced numerous investigations into his financial dealings but has always been cleared of any wrong doing.
Yet nothing would have prepared Sebego and Friends of Football for what was to follow at this year‘s congress when Tariq was voted his deputy in administration wing of the association, again curiously beating the most experienced man of the game, Segolame Ramotlhwa. He and his regime may now reflect that July 2012, with the realisation of his personal dream of an African Cup in Botswana, represented the pinnacle of his career; a period of calm. But sadly since then there has been a churning maelstrom of scandals.
The beginning of an end? How do you solve a problem like BFA? Part of the problem is that under Sebego it has assumed the self-importance of a nation state, with his presidency carrying all the hallmarks of a head of state, not just leader of a sport’s governing body.
Yet if you distil it, BFA’s purpose is simple: the same as it was under Sebego’s predecessors Phillip Makgalemele and David Fani: an administrator of the game’s laws, the organiser of heavily subsidised development tournaments like the defunct Coca-Cola Cup. Perhaps what it needs most is to strip itself of its baggage.
Its biggest problem remains at its summit. Because he personifies the organisation no matter what good it does, or however much it changes, it remains – rightly or wrongly – tied up in president’s public image. It matters not if the caricature belies reality; Sebego is probably the most gifted and astute political operator in global sport. But his continued support of Babitseng, where he once elevated him to the plum post of CEO, has handed him many enemies.
Yes Friends of Football's tactics appear to have worked. Much of the heat is off and the media focus has moved on. Some shrug their shoulders and say some progress is better than none.
Sebego's incremental, tortuously slow process has delivered a little progress. Meanwhile, more plausible individuals have replaced those forced out, some of whom say the right things about wanting more accountability and transparency.
However, the reform process is still hitting the buffers. The regime when campaigning promised to fight corruption that derailed Fani’s boat. Setete Phuthego was one of the long standing football administrators expelled over alleged money-laundering accusations. But how the knife dodged Babitseng even before he won the seat of the VP was one sharp question giving Friends of Football sleepless nights. Until his suspension, he was, too, a black sheep of the regime.
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.
Township Rollers is anticipated to spent around P 50 000 to expatriate their foreign based players amid ravaging corona virus threats. The club, in collaboration with the Football Union of Botswana (FUB) tested Francis Afriyie, Fabian Assagou Guy and Kamogelo Matsabu before they can head to their native countries.
The trio are awaiting the results which are all expected to come out negative, following which they will immediately board planes to their various destinations. Afriyie was a Rollers striker from Ghana.
Matsabu, regarded the darling of the club is heading back to South Africa while Guy signed by the club but has never impressed, will board a plane back to Ivory Coast.It is likely that both Matsabu and Guy will return as they are still contracted to Rollers. However, Afriyie will not return after failing Rollers litmus test.
The striker failed to break into the starting 11 of head coach Frank Nuttall for the season and it appeared that frustration got to him. And when it finally knocked him down, the striker in a rough and unexpected remonstration stormed out of the bench while a Rollers game was on.
The former Gho Maria striker penned a two year deal in January and it is rumoured that his contract was heavily incentivized, catapulting him to being one of the highest paid players at Rollers.His end of season departure will now put a serious question mark over Rollers’ recruitment policy.
He becomes the fourth foreign striker to fail the club examinations and released while on contract. Before him was, Mthokosize Msomi from South Africa, Terrence Mandawa from Tanzania and Fabian Mbowa from Ivory Coast. Msomi and Mandawa’s release were sanctioned by former coach Nikola Kavazovic. Mbowa is loaned to Police XI to create space and playing opportunity for the now departing Afriyie.
Releasing Afriyie will now mean that the club’s striking woes continue. Rollers management complained at times last season at the lack of productivity from their strikers but they hoped that striker Tumisang Orebonye and other targeted signings, aided perhaps by Edwin Moalosi who remains on the books, could fire an upturn.
However, it was never meant to be as they finished the season second behind league winners, Jwaneng Galaxy.
Black Leopards head coach, Joel Masutha, is reported to have orchestrated a move that could see mid fielder-cum-striker, Mogakolodi Tsotso Ngele, being dropped by Leopards.
WeekendSport has learnt that the coach summoned the Zebras former captain to a one-on-one meeting a month ago to relay the bad news. It is reported that Masutha told the player that he is surplus to requirement and therefore he will not be selected for any game unless he opts to leave.
Reports further state that Tsotso was not encouraged to fight for his position but instead was told that there are better players to be tasked with scoring responsibilities and helping the club to dodge the dreaded relegation axe.Ngele therefore is waiting for his contract to expire before plotting his next move. He is said to be torn between playing for one more year in South Africa and coming to Botswana to play for high paying Township Rollers.
The Rollers decision will once again hinge on his private business which he would love to monitor closely. He owns a sports clothing label where he already signed a two year deal with Notwane FC.Ngele’s career at Leopards blew hot and cold. He only enjoyed his stay when his former coach Calvin Johnson was at the helm.
He played in crucial matches and his stunning free kick against log leaders Kaizer Chiefs is still remembered by his followers.However, there have been many other factors at play.It is said Ngele’s future at Thohoyandou- a location where Black Leopards is based- encountered problems of many kinds. His future is believed to have been dulled by injuries and a confidence that strangely refused to bloom.
The player is also said to have broken ranks with Leopards management where he shocked them when playing for the senior national team last year albeit claiming to be suffering from a thigh injury. Ngele had signed a two year deal, but as things stand, the left footed midfielder is heading out as his contract staggers to an end. He is believed to be earning close to R80 000 after tax deductions.
The lifestyle and living conditions at Thohoyandou are also seen as factors that further complicate Ngele’s situation hence the sudden collapse of concentration in football.Ngele is said to be represented by Tim Sukazi who still hopes that the player’s breakthrough career is worth fighting for.
When signed by high spending Mamelodi Sundowns almost 5 years ago, he was represented by Mike Makaab, also a renowned football agent in South Africa.It is growing precarious for Ngele who was chained for longer spells at Sundowns.
But when a move to Leopards was announced, there was a high expectation that the player was nearing his revolutionary season.