This past Friday (yesterday) Batswana endorsed the new Government to lead the nation until 2019 when the next general election will be held. But for the past five years how has Botswana fared in terms of sport? Has the Government done enough to develop the sports industry? KETUMILE RAMATITI looks at how the Government dealt with some thorny issues in the field of sport and the way forward.
With the population of less than two million, Botswana is one of the least populated countries in Africa, which has performed fairly well in sport especially in international competitions where our athletes have been able to paint a good picture of this semi-arid country to the outside world. However, there have been shortcomings here and there as far as the Government is concerned in terms of its initiatives, which tend to backfire due to administration lapses.
DEVELOPMENT STRUCTURES From time immemorial one of the issues of concern to the sport industry locally has been development; both athlete-based and administrative but thus far it appears we are still using old-fashioned methods of doing things. All Government development initiatives have been brilliant ideas but execution has been a letdown to those noble initiatives.
The Reba Bona Ha programme, which is the oldest development programme, has failed to nurture the talent that it could, this is so because kids only get to train on weekends for about three hours but then do nothing midweek. To get the best out of this the Government could have made it in such a way that kids train daily so that they get to master what they practise and end up producing high breeds.
Another government idea that has backfired is the centres of sport excellence, which have also proven to be a liability. These centres have ordinary teachers acting as mentors, something which leads to the production of premature athletes because they are not moulded accordingly by ‘still-growing’ teacher-coaches.
Like they say, nothing comes cheap; the Government authorities should dig deeper into their pockets and give those teachers the necessary skills so that we produce mature well-rounded athletes who can represent this nation well on the global stage. All the centres of excellence have not been dominating in their respective codes, so the state has failed to come up with strategies to get the best out of this project.
If the leadership of this country could have provided necessary personnel and relevant structures be put in place then will see those centres produce the desired outcome. The controversial Constituency Tournaments, which nearly landed this country in hot soup with FIFA, cannot be glossed over. The tournaments don’t have age restrictions which means very old people play in the competitions.
This could have been better if the tournaments were designed to develop young ones who, as a nation, will reap something out of them in future like Segolame Boy rather than old and tired people being developed. How are they going to benefit the country?
The tournaments are also a hindrance to mainstream sport as athletes opt for them instead of professional leagues because of financial gain; so the government must take this as a lesson and try to harness resources to get the best out of these tournaments. The next Government that will be taking charge of this nation should also look at these loopholes and try to patch them up where necessary.
LEADERSHIP Another letdown for Botswana sport is administration deficiency from all levels even at the mother-body; Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC). The Government, which is the overseer and financier of the BNSC, should make sure that a sports body like BNSC is fully fledged. For a long time the CEOs have been coming and going at the BNSC, something which the Government could have rectified by getting down to the root cause of the exodus.
It is worrying that even now the sports council still has an acting CEO, yet an organisation like a sports council needs a permanent CEO. There have been allegations that the relations between BNSC and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) are frosty too. This has a lot of people calling for both organisations to merge as they normally ‘fight’ to take the shine from each other especially when it comes to international showpieces.
Some people have been going to the extent that various codes must take responsibility to elect the Chairperson of BNSC – rather than the Government appointing its preferred candidate – so they can caucus and present their ideal leader than a Minister who at times may be clueless about sports dynamics.
Lack of leadership has caused the country dearly as certain sport codes, including women’s football, and basketball league are played without sponsorship, which does not bode well for Botswana, when it comes to international competitions.
Recently we saw the national women’s team being thrashed by South Africa 10-0, confirming Honourable Shaw Kgathi’s words that ‘’we should never send ill-prepared teams to competitions”. However, during the reign of Kgathi as the minister of youth sport and culture, there were sports of pitso meetings where different stakeholders would share ideas on how to improve sport in the country, something which should continue for the next five years.
FACILITIES Another cause for concern to the sporting community is the availability of sports facilities. This came to the fore recently when we dreamt of bidding for 2017 AFCON as one of the pre-requisites was a 40 000 capacity stadium, which unfortunately Botswana does not have even though there were issues of consultation between BFA and BNSC.
Since the opening of the new Lobatse Stadium in 2009 nothing in terms of a new facility has been done. The Francistown Stadium is now a white elephant though millions of Pula were invested into its development.
As a developing country we should try by all means to have proper facilities, at least one international stadium like what Zambia did by constructing the Levy Mwanawasa stadium because our National Stadium is no longer ideal as it has been overtaken by events.
Athletics, which has been putting this country on a world map, is yet to have any facility that will complement the athletes’ hard work. In this era where the likes of Amantle Montsho are hanging up their running spikes, we should have a palace where enterprising athletes will nurture their talent rather than sending athletes abroad to facilities where they can train well.
Recently, the Botswana Amateur Athletics Association (BAA) announced that it was planning to erect a high performance centre, which needs around P400 million but sadly the BNSC says it cannot afford.
Again it means the dream of having those facilities is still far-fetched this has left the BAA top brass keeping their finger crossed that the next Government will listen to their pleas. However, we have seen attempts by Government to provide sports facilities, which have benefited codes like volleyball as they now play their games indoors via availability of IHS facilities.
This has been a welcome development. The impending opening of the sports centre at the University of Botswana (UB) is also expected to reduce congestion at the few available ones. The state of the art facility will cater for various indoor codes including boxing and table tennis, among others. In terms of facilities, the Government cannot be commended because it could have done better.
HOSTING EVENTS Late in their term the Government helped in hosting a number of events with the latest being the legendary Africa Youth Games (AYG). Botswana hosted the COSAFA Under-20 competitions in 2010 and 2011, which has been a good development from the government side. A variety of sports codes have also joined the bandwagon; rugby hosted the World Cup qualifiers and netball followed in their footsteps.
It demonstrated what this nation can do by hosting successful games despite the short notice. This past government can be given pat on back too for taking sport seriously, especially in terms of hosting huge continental and global and events.
It is through this regime that Botswana saw our representative teams doing well in international event. Montsho in 2010 made history as she got a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2011 the senior national football team, the Zebras qualified for the first time to AFCON finals. In the year 2012 Botswana also notched the first Olympic medal courtesy of Nigel Amos who is now going up the success ladder.
Players are also being exported to professional leagues; volleyball has Tracy Chaba who plied her trade in Algeria before coming back home and basketball is also on the verge of sending their star, Baros Churchill, to Angola where the sport is played on a professional basis while netball has also sent Hildah Binang to Singapore for a season. But the success of these players can be attributed to their own brilliance.
This past Government has played its part and the next Government should improve upon what is already there so that at the end of the day Botswana sport is the winner.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) is running without a substantive Technical Director since parting ways with South African native, Serame Letsoaka, who jumped ship midway through his contract in 2019.
This glaring revelation has left the Technical Department of the association hamstrung to fully operate by the book hence a plethora of problems protruding on the very nose of it.
This is the reason it took long for the association to take stern action against Zebras gaffer, Adel Amrouche. His departure was sanctioned at the eleventh hour when players’ patience had long wilted, threatening to leave the camp.
Pundits will therefore observe that it is the absence of a Technical Director that has caused all hell to break loose at Lekidi Football Centre.Since the departure of Letsoaka, the TD position has been more or less vacant as it has been manned by unqualified and somewhat incompetent administrators to date.
The TD position requires a CAF A-License qualification as well as a Diploma in Secondary Education as minimum qualifications. Among the specific duties of TD is; training and development of coaches, including design and updating of coaches manuals, facilitating licensing courses, developing a coaches Code of Conduct, arranging for expert and specialist coaches to deliver training clinics, education on rules of the game and creating and maintaining a library of resources including books, videos and articles for coaches to access.
The responsibility also include establishing and delivering a comprehensive and nationwide Grassroots programme at both the community level, in schools, and in the schools through clubs through strategic partnerships within the communities and with various government ministries and agencies.
TD also advices BFA on all matters related to the effective development of football in Botswana and is accountable for the development of a strategy and policy for the performance of football programmes.
Other duties include working with Youth National teams and coaches through development programmes in order to enable BFA to attain its goals within CAF and FIFA, including putting in place clear systems and processes for identifying and developing talented players.
After Letsoaka left, BFA reached out to Wire Kaelo, a Gaborone United legend currently holding the position of assistant coach at Security System FC, but eventually he was not appointed to the post.
Despite rumours to the effect that BFA had agreed terms with Kaelo to this day, the Association has not come out as to what happened to the alleged marriage.
BFA subsequently appointed one Dr Carolin Braun, on secondment from the German Olympic organisation, a move that left the association rooted in abrasive factionalism.
In particular, local coaches and the general football fanatics have always cried foul claiming that Dr Braun is not fit to hold the position of TD especially in a growing football environment like Botswana.
There is growing concern that Dr Braun does not have the pre-requisite credentials to be appointed for this plum post as she has never held any significant position within the football fraternity, not even at amateur level.
“It was a first in the history of Botswana football to see a TD doubling up as assistant coach to the senior national team and there has been no tangible coaching courses since the departure of Serame Letsoaka and this has been attributable to the vacant position of TD,” a source remarked.
BFA is currently failing to communicate CAF’s decision that the ill-fated CAF “B” and “C” courses held during Serame’s last days were not sanctioned and therefore attendants will not be certificated.
Over 50 local coaches participated in the courses and last year, most of those coaching in the Premier League had to be given waivers by the BFA Technical Committee before they could be accredited.
CAF has since indicated that the issue of waivers by national associations will not be entertained, something which might throw local games into disarray.BFA is still failing to come up with a coaching philosophy despite Serame having started groundwork before his departure.
Other countries such as Zambia have since resumed CAF coaching courses whilst in Botswana is still business as usual despite the impending challenges caused by indiscretion and lack of foresight.
Despite BFA having advertised the position of TD and subsequently holding interviews where recommendations were done by the Technical and Development Committee, the BFA NEC has refused to endorse the recommendation for reasons only best known to them.
Yet, there is a lingering fact that the NEC is clueless when it comes to technical matters. There is not even a single individual in the NEC who holds any coaching qualification including the Chairman of the member responsible for technical and development matters, Masego Ntshingane.
When asked about the position of the TD, Ntshingane said the association is well aware of the matter and will son fill the post. “Yes, it is true the association has not appointed a TD after Letsoaka’s departure, but we are working around the clock to hire capable people,” he said.
However, local coaches believe that it’s a travesty of justice to expect non-technical people to make meaningful contributions on technical matters to the extent that they can veto recommendations from a committee of renowned technical experts.
It is not business as usual in the operations manual of African football. Ever since the ascendency of Dr. Patrice Motsepe to the CAF plum post, the African football governing body is ringing changes to satisfy the demands and governance standards of the modern game.
However, it appears that what is coming out from the high offices of the game is a bitter pill to swallow for local clubs, some of which are touted to be the best in the land.
Connectedly, CAF has issued a circular to the effect that only coaches holding the CAF “A” education license will be permitted to sit on the technical dugout during the upcoming inter club competitions. This communication has been sent to all 54 CAF member associations in May 2021.
However, it seems local clubs have not been appraised on this development even though both Jwaneng Galaxy and Orapa United have shown desire to represent the country in the CAF competitions.
It comes to the fore now that the two clubs can successfully represent the country if they engage coaches with the pre-requisite qualifications which is now an insurmountable task due to the COVID-19 impact on club finances.
Both clubs have hired coaches who attended the ill-fated BFA conducted CAF “B” and “A” coaching courses which were held in Lobatse almost two years ago.
To date the coaches await the completion of the courses and certificates while CAF has made it clear that the courses were not sanctioned as they were held during the era that coaching licenses were suspended, a situation that BFA was well aware of and has since accepted the consequences.
The BFA is still at sixes and sevens on how to break the issue to the affected coaches as it is likely to cause a huge public embarrassment and backlash from the coaching fraternity.
“We all know about the problem, BFA is promising to come to the bottom of the matter as we continue to engage them,” says Botswana Football Coaches Association (BFCA) interim President, Daniel Nare.
CAF has also made it clear that this time there will be no waiver for coaches without the pre-requisite qualification because the Confederation has been too lenient in the past. During the last CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup, both Galaxy and Orapa United coaches were given a reprieve by CAF Technical Department as they did not even have the CAF “B” license.
When approached for clarity, the Spokesperson for Galaxy, Tankiso Morake said they are playing a waiting game when it comes to CAF issues especially that BFA is yet to reply to their letter. “Honestly, there is nothing concrete I can share because no one is certain about anything. We are waiting to be replied by the association so that we can finalize everything,” he said.
While United was not available for comment, it is clear that both clubs will need to hire coaches with the needed qualifications otherwise playing in this year’s edition of African football mirrors a tomorrow that may never come.
A recent study shows that Township Rollers is not only popular within the perimeters of Botswana, but has also made significant steps within the digital football platforms in Africa.
Out of the 70 African football clubs ranked on the African football digital benchmark, Township Rollers comes on the 35th position backed by a massive social media following. The club website records more than 399 000 followers and is seen as the most interactive in the local game.
This is consistent with the recent study conducted by FIFA- world football governing body- that Rollers is the only team locally that makes use of its digital platforms.
Notably, it comes out that the gap between Township Rollers and the rest of the 15 Premier League clubs is abysmal, this therefore works against creating a strong BPL brand value.
Rollers is the only club with more than 50 000 followers on Facebook, more than 20 000 followers on Twitter while its Instagram platform stands strong at 27 800 followers.
However, it is found out that much of the BPL brand value is killed by some social Facebook football fan accounts. They have stood long and have thus attracted more followers than the official accounts. Pages like Killers Pass and Botswana Football have consequently seen more than 100 000 following. Both of the accounts give 24 hour on-going updates of football’s latest news, transfers, results, video and live updates.
FIFA has therefore come to a conclusion that the two social media pages have grown interactive since they incite followers to answer and present their impressions about local football.
It comes into the open that 70 percent of domestic premier league clubs do not have official websites. This according to FIFA, kills the brand and visibility of clubs hence failure to attract lucrative sponsors by the clubs. FIFA also found out that the remaining 30 percent of clubs with websites are lacklustre and found wanting when it comes to their online presence. But in this regard, Rollers is on pole position.