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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

Talks to merge BNOC, BNSC resurface

14th September 2020
BNOC,BNSC merge

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.

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Sport

P50 000 to expatriate Rollers players

14th September 2020
FRANCIS AFRIYIE

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.

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Sport

Leopards dump jilted Tsotso

7th September 2020
MOGAKOLODI TSOTSO NGELE

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.

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