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The battle to rescue Constituency football

It all started on one good afternoon in the last week of August when Kgosana Masaseng, a highly regarded football analyst and Players’ Union spokesperson, made a call to FIFA development officer, Ashford Mamelodi.

Masaseng wanted to meet with Mamelodi to discuss the future of Botswana football in the context of the controversy-ridden Constituency football tournaments. The two would later meet in a Portuguese restaurant at Gaborone’s Game City shopping mall.

As they dined, the hotly debated topic of Constituency tournament was discussed. More was to follow. Little did Masaseng and Mamelodi realise that by starting discussions around this issue, a solution to the most troubling football matter was in the offing.

Mamelodi left the meeting with an assignment to think about a solution that the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Government could easily agree upon. A new date for the second round of discussions was later agreed on and secured. This time, the plot thickened. Masaseng was tasked with coming up with a list of key strategists to help fast-track the discussions to break the constituency tournaments stalemate.

Politicians from across the spectrum were at the time at each other’s throat especially after information spread that FIFA had given the BFA until September 22 to come up with convincing answers to the issue of Constituency tournaments. The BFA, according to those close to the game, had written FIFA in Zurich, complaining about the impact of Constituency tournaments on mainstream football in Botswana.

FIFA swiftly sent a two-man delegation to Botswana on a fact-finding mission to assess the impact of constituency tournaments, which were introduced in 2008 in an attempt by Government to address youth unemployment, among other thorny issues. It was called the constituency sport tournament programme as it coincided with the political constituency boundaries for its implementation and administration.

The FIFA delegation after meeting both Government officials led by the acting Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, Vincent Seretse, and the Tebogo Sebego-led BFA, wasted no time in giving feedback to key stakeholders. In no time, the mission was completed and a report compiled for the world governing body.

It was not long before word was out that Botswana risked suspension from the world soccer governing body. In trying to address the problem, the BFA met with the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) to find a common ground on this hotly contested matter. Apparently, their proposal was shot down by Seretse, who is said to have maintained that his Government would not back down even in the face of a FIFA sanction.

Opposition politicians took to the freedom squares, pointing accusing fingers at the ruling party for bringing the country’s football into disrepute. However, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) – through the then Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, Shaw Kgathi – was steadfast in its response to its critics, accusing them of reporting the matter to FIFA before it could be fully dealt with locally. As tempers flared, President Ian Khama probably delivered a sucker punch to the BFA when he declared that if FIFA insisted on a suspension, his Government would withdraw resources and hand over the tournaments to the BFA for administration. It was at this stage that the battle lines were drawn. On the sidelines, the Masaseng-Mamelodi project was slowly taking shape. Soon a meeting was arranged with a Member of Parliament (MP) for the now Bonnington South, Botsalo Ntuane, at the Botswana Craft.

His role was to try his best and pass the message onto the country’s top leadership about the prospects of a compromise. Ntuane was convinced that a solution was within reach and that all it called for was a platform where the issue could be thrashed out in greater detail. Predictably he was to make it happen within the shortest time possible.

It was in his interest and that of his party to act on the matter as it had by then become a political hot potato. By late evening, Ntuane contacted President Khama’s senior private secretary, George Tlhalerwa, who promised to escalate the matter further, or at the least, try to secure a meeting for Mamelodi. The political side of the business was in top gear.

After three days, the President was still not available for a meeting as his schedule was jam-packed. Whilst in Jwaneng to provide lectures for Jwaneng Galaxy FC, the Masaseng-Mamelodi axis developed and secured another route that could get the country’s top office to at least spare a minute or two for a briefing.

 Jwaneng-Mabutsane parliamentary hopeful, Mephatho Reatile was the next target. He was seen as a close ‘chess icon’ that could reach the Office of the President (OP) much quicker in an effort to parry the political pressure from opponents. Indeed, the choice turned to be spot on.

On the eve of BDP’s fund-raising dinner featuring renowned South African business magnate Patrice Motsepeld at Boipuso Hall, Reatile met Masaseng and Mamelodi who were arriving from Jwaneng to make a follow-up to their previous call. Although Reatile was for a minute glued to the couch at the Cappuccinos, he was equally in a hurry to attend the fund-raising event. The constituency tournament solution would, in the remaining three weeks ahead of the elections make life much easier for the ruling party. His interest was now in the “three weeks”.

The meeting ended with yet another assignment for the BDP spin doctor. Whilst attending the dinner, Reatile could not afford to take his eyes off the ball. In between activities, he found his way to Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe’s ear and whispered the “good news”. That very night, a decision was made to secure a meeting for Monday and suddenly the gigs-saw puzzle pieces were falling into place.

Ntuane on the other side had also secured an appointment for Mamelodi to come for a brief presentation. Monday was turning into a D-day. Through the efforts of Reatile, the vice president finally met the former BFA strongman for a meeting at the OP at 1200hrs. Victory was imminent. 

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Sport

Absence of TD causes BFA damage

28th June 2021
BFA-Dr. Carolin Braun

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.

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CAF blocks unqualified coaches

28th June 2021
CAF Champions League

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.

 

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Sport

Rollers make digital strides

11th June 2021
rollers_0121

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.

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