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The neglect of women’s football


When the women’s football league was introduced some years back, football die-hards were optimistic that it marked the beginning of better things to come especially that organisers were able to rope in sponsors. But things have gotten out of hand and the league is in inexorable decline. Where did we miss the plot?


Just this past month, the whole of the African continent witnessed the Women African Championships; unfortunately this nation was not represented. The national senior women’s team failed to go past the preliminary round as they were reduced to minced meat by their neighbours Banyana Banyana of South Africa via an embarrassing 10-0 score-line.

If anything this served to confirm that women’s football is not taken seriously especially by the mother-body, the Botswana Football Association (BFA), as the team’s failure in the prefatory stages had the coach publicly declaring that they never prepared for the games.

It is highly unlikely the men’s team preparing for any important tournament would travel without having had a camp. Even in the face of financial constraints the BFA would always try by all means to source funds to at least play against Lesotho or Swaziland, for example. Why is the same not happening with the ladies?


As it stands the women’s league is played with nothing at stake for the winners. Ever-since founding sponsor AT & T Monnakgotla Travel& Tours pulled out two seasons ago, the poor ladies have been struggling to secure a deal. Playing for nothing in the league could lead to poor showing by the national team especially when they face their opponents from countries with better organised women’s leagues.

In fact there is no competition in our league, hence the sub-standard performance by our girls. Who knows maybe they don’t even train midweek; they just meet on match-day. This is not good enough. The country will not benefit anything from the league apart from producing mediocre players who will bring back our old tag of the ‘Weeping girls of Africa’.


When the campaigns for the BFA committee elections were reaching the crescendo in July, the then Chairperson for the league Senki Sesinyi, who was eyeing one of the National Executive Committee (NEC) posts, when engaged by this publication about the future of the women’s league, called for calm saying he had found sponsorship that was to be launched soon. But until now we are still waiting for that momentous thing to happen, or was it just the traditional way of gaining undeserved political mileage: making promises you cannot keep?


Efforts to get hold of Sesinyi for an update on how far he has gone with the sponsorship promise, failed this week as his mobile number was off.


However, it is no secret that playing in ‘’cashless’ league has proven in the past that it is a heavy load on the shoulders of the clubs; teams have de-registered from the league as it was a financial drain on them.


With women’s football in catch 22 situations one would have thought that around $US700,000 grants that were released by FIFA as the bonus after the World Cup would help avert the situation, but that is not the case. BFA President Tebogo Sebego made it clear at the general meeting in July that women’s football would not get a percentage from those monies as the cake was already divided.


When this publication engaged him on Wednesday this week, he said they were concerned, as the over-seers, about the state of the league, adding that they were in negotiations with some potential investors to partner with in the league. Should Batswana expect something or he is just playing games like Sesinyi did some months ago?


The teams have made their plea to the public that they are traversing a rocky terrain in their bid to bring women’s football at par with the men’s premier league but it appears that it is a ‘foetal ambition’. Teams like Township Rollers, who are financially well off compared to other teams, are likely to survive the challenges.

Double Action, who used to be Queens of the Jungle when there was a sponsorship, are now struggling. Rollers are currently at the summit of the log, a clear sign that the problem is money at the league.


During the reign of Monnakgotla, as the headline sponsor, the league had the charm as the teams were organised during match-days – but that is history now.  Teams came on time for the games and it was rare to hear that a team did not show up for the games.

Players were also exported to countries like Zimbabwe.  Star player Bonang ‘Bebeto’ Otlhagile is a case in point, and this was made possible because scouts used to come to Botswana to look for players, which was a good thing for the growth of women’s football.


However, with Sebego’s statement that “women should expect something” better as they are still cooking something in the oven, all is not lost. Hopefully his promise will not remain a promise for eternity.
 

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Sport

City turns to BFA tribunal over relegation

23rd November 2021
Premier league players

Botswana Football Association (BFA) arbitration tribunal is set to hear a case in which Molepolole City Stars is challenging the 2019-20 football season curtailment that led to their untimely relegation. The season was abruptly ended amid the ravaging COVID-19 scourge when the government decided to place the whole country under lockdown.

In particular, City Stars, under Somerset Gobuiwang, challenges the rationale and fairness of the association to end the league when there were several options to pursue. The club does not want to contest the authority of the national executive committee to stop the league but argues that the decision to relegate them based on the log standing was unfair, irrational and unreasonable.

Moreover, the decision was against the spirit of the game and not the most appropriate one under circumstances where they were still about 10 league games to play. As the papers were submitted, City Stars argues that the most appropriate step would have been to suspend the league and protect the league standing. “The league would then resume when it was safe to do so, as indeed it is happening now, with the log standings maintained as they were,” the court papers read.

The team, which was languishing at the bottom of the table when the decision was taken, also argues and gives an alternative that the league could have ended without relegation issues. City Stars argues, “This would be in recognition of the undeniable facts that the league was not complete and that the log standings at the time were not in any way an indicator of how they would have been had the league been allowed to run its course.”

Furthermore, Molepolole City Stars are livid that the association did not consider that the complainant had valid contracts with its staff and players and that such agreement could not be terminated abruptly. On the one hand, BFA said it was looking at three options before ending the league. Facts and scenarios informed each decision, and one was independent of the other, it was argued.

The first option, BFA says, was to stop the league where it was and crown the team that occupied the first place, which was Jwaneng Galaxy. Furthermore, three teams lying at the bottom of the table would be relegated, and teams on pole positions from Debswana First Division north and south will be promoted automatically.

By all accounts, the association felt it was a controversial option to undertake but also fairer for the sake of progress. The second available possibility was to stretch the season and consequently change the football calendar. “There has been a shelved proposal that recommends the change of our season from the usual August-May calendar to February – November because of health reasons,” BFA president MacLean Letshwiti said before making the decision.

The last possibility was to nullify all the leagues. This was — and continued to be — the last resort. Across all the global leagues, the domestic campaign had only 10 matches left, which could, in theory, be completed in the space of five weeks. In the end, BFA feels that a decision had to be made for the sake of progress. The dates of the hearing are yet to be made public.

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Sport

Is it time to take Piro serious?

23rd November 2021
GU

Pontsho Moloi’s character and football standing as a young coach have embodied simplicity and hard work for far too long. Moloi is a local bred coach who has so far threatened foreign gaffers with his coaching philosophy, a style that is exciting and irking football purists in equal measure.

As Moloi is famously known in football circles, Piro has coached a few different clubs in the homeland, but his stewardship of Gaborone United last season — going into the new one- remains his best memorable achievement ever. Before the 2019-20 season was stopped because of the COVID-19 outbreak, GU was one of the league’s favourites.

But as any self-respecting purveyor of sporting cliché knows, it is never a bad idea to keep quiet and let your football do the talking. The only hanging problem for Piro is that he has often wanted to let his talking do the talking — which is a shame since, by and large, his football, both as a player and coach, has spoken loudly enough.

Piro’s coaching resume is fascinating and worth the test for a coach whose career is barely two years old. He has presided over big guns, one staggeringly good debut top-flight campaign, one freewheeling title charge, and one dramatic league season. Yet throughout, he has continued to serve as a punch line, painted by a substantial cohort.

Now, three games into the current season, his Gaborone United side sit at the top of the pile, having won all their games and remarkably keeping a clean sheet. No team has scored more goals than Piro’s side. Is Botswana football finally ready to recognize Piro as an elite-level coach? In fact, why has it not done so already?

The answer is not straightforward, regardless of what some of his harsher detractors would want to believe, although it is true that he has often failed to do himself any favours when a microphone has been aimed his way. In today’s culture, it only takes one slip of the tongue — one tiny sound bite lacking in self-awareness — to make you look silly.

Piro’s model has worked across the board: promotion-chasing minnow, sleeping giant, trophy-hovering Goliath figure, and now an aspirational upper-middleweight.

In each instance, he has found a new gear, improved his team beyond expectation and created a side better than the sum of its parts, at least for a time. Young and veteran players excel under his watch. Attackers — especially hard-running and bloodthirsty centre-forwards, Thatayaone Kgamanyane — flourish like never before. And for once, he has needed big money to make significant progress. Yet even at United, the least tangibly successful of his last three jobs and one where things went downhill towards the end, he put together sensationally exciting teams.

Now at GU, pundits still ask whether he will last longer at the top or he will soon fall. His demonstrations this season speak volumes about winning a bigger and better trophy this season. Can he deliver, or time will tell? Part of the answer will come as the season wears on.

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Sport

GU, Rollers – early favorites

16th November 2021
Rollers & GU

Football giants Township Rollers and Gaborone United have emerged as early favourites to win the newly refined Botswana Football League (BFL), following a perfect start to the season.   

There is a sense of relief from different quarters that this new football season, still striving to secure a title sponsor, is set to be packed with more excitement and action than anticipated. Seasons’ never-ending transfer rumour mill, coupled with half-paced friendlies, have their place in football, but they were indeed only going to be a tasty little snack before the sumptuous banquet, which is a new season.

Each team has played three games. At the time of going to print, Gaborone United, driven by local gaffers Innocent Morapedi and Pontso Moloi, remains in pole position with 9 points, maintaining an unbeaten record. The club also holds another record as only to club yet to concede. Also, on pole position is Township Rollers, who remain of the favourites to clinch the title come season end.

Languishing at the bottom of the log is Extension Gunners. The Lobatse based outfit have already pressed panic buttons by sacking their coach. It is still early days, but it appears The Peleng Boys, as they are affectionately called, are suffering early relegation season syndrome. They have played three games and are still struggling to find a win, let alone finding the back of the net.

Big guns like Orapa United and Jwaneng Galaxy have tried to bolster their squads but have failed to stamp authority in their first three encounters. Galaxy look set to be a better team, but two registered wins and a loss may as well betray this standing belief. Orapa, on the other hand, has grouped experienced players in their camp. Die-hard followers hope that this may be a fruitful season, but a midweek loss against Police XI in their backyard leaves followers questioning the readiness of their technical team as the season gets hot.

Township Rollers are breathing heavily on Gaborone United backs. The two teams now becoming rivals are equal on points, but much of the scrutiny is on GU, whose defence might be critical to this year’s championship.  The need for news and views — not to mention wins in Lobatse and Francistown or wherever will once again become the all-consuming passion in many football lovers’ lives. Some had reason to be happier than most. That is why Sua Flamingoes and Masitaoka are ecstatic for their first 2021 victories.

A logical decree is that the Premier League’s usual suspects will have it all their way again. Talent galore and bottomless pockets of cash were enough to ensure yet more silverware ends up in already crammed trophy cabinets. The cream, as they say, always tends to rise to the top. Week 1 of this first half-season was the most interesting one. Eighteen goals were scored, and Thatayaone Kgamanyane of GU became the first player to score a Premier League goal this season.

Premier League Chief Executive Officer Solomon Ramochothwane believes this will be the most competitive season of recent seasons. “It is tight and competitive, and we might have a new champion at the end,” he opined. He also expressed happiness that numbers will grow at the stadiums as time goes on. But beyond the shadow of a doubt, the return of Premier League fourth round — as remarkable as the first three laps — will signal several months of nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat tension.

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