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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

BAA targets 2 medals at World Champs

28th June 2022
Letsile Tebogo

With just three weeks left before the World Athletics Championships kicks off in London, the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) has set a modest target for its athletes, demanding a paltry two medals.

The members of the team that will be participating in the event are currently training. They are expected to leave on July 10. The Botswana team, which was composed of young athletes, was able to secure seven medals at the recently concluded Africa Senior Championships held in Mauritius. They were placed sixth out of 44 participating nations.

According to Oabona Theetso, the Vice President of the Botswana Athletics Association, the team’s goal is to secure two medals at the World Championships. On the other hand, the under-20 team’s goal is to bag at least four medals.

Nevertheless, Theetso said the team which is currently on training camp encompasses of Isaac Makwala, Nigel Amos, Anthony Pesela, Bayapo Ndori, Letsile Tebogo, Isaac Makwala, and Thalosang Tshireletso of High jump just to mention the few. Theetso noted that the training camp was not able to produce a female athlete due to the failure of the female athletes to secure a ticket to the event.

Theetso also noted that the BNOC gave the BAA about P500 000 to help fund the team’s preparations for the event. Besides the training camp, the organization additionally received the same funding for the Oregon World Champion team.

When asked about the presence of renowned athlete and 800m world record holder, Nijel Amos, at the training camp, Theetso revealed that he has never officially communicated his intention to become an independent athlete.

When further pressed about the outcome of the meeting between Amos and the Minister – Theetso said, “We are unaware that he ever meets with Rakgare. If they met without the presence of BAA official, it will be wrong and highly regrettable,” he said.

When contacted for a comment Tlhobo Tlhasana who is Public Relations Officer at Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture confirmed to this publication that Amos met with Minister Tumiso Rakgare a few weeks after the 2012 Olympic silver medalist made known his intention to go solo.

“The minister is at liberty to meet any sport personality from different codes in his capacity as the minister. He doesn’t need the permission from BAA or let alone BNSC to have a meeting with Amos,” he noted.  Meanwhile in 2019, BAA sent a strong team of 13 athletes, with five focused on individual categories, while others were to form part of relay team.

During that time two out of five athletes who were to represent this country within individual events were relegated to spectators owing to injuries. But the injuries on the two athletes had left one question on the lips of many within the athletics fraternity.

The duo of Nigel Amos and Galefele Moroko, who were undoubtedly team Botswana poster kids, saw their dream of sailing through in the competitions halted as they were forced out of tournament owing to injuries. Botswana eventually came home empty handed after failing to secure podium finish.

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Rollers should pay the price – Zackhem

28th June 2022
NICOLAS-ZAKHEM

Botswana Football League (BFL) Chairperson Nicholas Zackem who is also a Gaborone United financier and director says Township Rollers should instead of being a hard-nut be remorseful on the Onkarabile Ratanang marathon case.

In an interview with WeekendSport this week, Zackhem says he has always had a good relationship with his Township Rollers counterpart, Jagdish Shah. However things took a nasty turn early this year when it surfaced that their left back Onkarabile Ratanang was not registered accordingly.

Again, the Rollers home game against GU played in February which resulted in a near stampede left him agitated such that Rollers should learn a lesson. “So with all these I think they should be remorseful and stop being militant,” he said.

His contention is, “this is recurring and with only one team – Rollers. Remember what happened in 2014 when BDF X1 was leading the log and they were docked points which in turn allowed Rollers to win.”  In 2016 there was Ofentse Nato (Rollers player) saga where he was also not duly registered and now we are here again with Ratanang. This should be corrected to better our football.”

The Ratanang case has been dragging for months now and has created unnecessary chaos in local football. Of late the football league awards ceremony had to be postponed with those in the know saying it is because of the matter. A statement from BFL however says the postponement is a result of logistical challenges.

The BFL boss says he does not care what should happen to Rollers, which is arguably the most followed football team in the land. “Even if the relevant structure could fine the P100k or relegate or even be docked points I don’t care but I want them to respect football. My worry is they should be disciplined because they committed a heartfelt mistake.”

Some football commentators say there is high possibility of Rollers be axed from the elite league because they are facing a misconduct charge which means they can only plea for a lighter sentence like points docking.

When asked about reports of some players from other teams not registered accordingly just like Ratanang, Zackhem said it will be up to the relevant structures to decide because as far as he is concerned, the Rollers case is the only one that has been reported at Botswana Football Association (BFA).

ZAC ON BRIBING REFEREES

The 2021/22 football season was exciting but here and there it was blotted by allegations which were pointed at Zackhem himself as the league Chair of buying referees. He has vehemently dismissed those reports and rumours saying the current GU arsenal does not need any favors.

“We invested heavily on this team and if you have invested surely you are poised to win everything on offer. Look at the players that I have do you think I would need referees to win matches? Most of the players have also been called to the national team and that alone proves their mettle. I don’t remember the last time GU was awarded a penalty this season, it has been a team work and those referee talk is baseless.”

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My dream is to coach at national level – Mpatane

28th June 2022
ELEVEN-ANGELS-HEAD-COACH: SEEMO-MPATANE

“I am a dreamer and perseverance is my name because after writing my Cambridge examinations a few years ago, I grouped young footballers in Francistown and started a youthful unregistered football team with them.

It was a difficult thing to do because the players were students and parents were not letting some of them to play football as they believed it might negatively affect their studies and some of the big clubs in the elite league will come and take my players.”

This is how Seemo ‘Sixteen’ Mpatane, a coach and founder of Eleven Angels football club which gained promotion to the elite league last weekend describe himself and the journey thus far. Barely two weeks ago, Mochudi Center chiefs failed to pluck Angels’ wings when they hosted them at Riverplate grounds during the first leg of the Botswana Football league promotional playoffs but this past Saturday Angels soared to a 5 – 0 win over them to reach the promised land.

The win meant Lekgamu la Bananyana (youthful side) as they affectionately known will now make a debut appearance at the apex of local league football. For a match characterized by a long stoppage time following clashes between Angels and Chiefs supporters, it was Angels who showed more battle to convincingly beat Chiefs and attain promotion.

Nevertheless, Mpatane said, “I continued to coach my team even when I was still studying at Botswana Accountancy College (BAC) in Francistown and it was a difficult journey because I had some school projects to do and I will divert my monthly allowance to some of my players; to feed them, provide transportation for them and also to buy them soccer boots,” he stated.

In 2013, he says, he decided to register the team officially with Botswana Football Association (BFA) in order to protect the players from other teams and to make income out of the team.
He further said Lekgamu La Bananyana started in Third Division league when they got position one and gained automatic promotion to Second Division league although it was only their first season to play there.

“We struggled at Second Division because I had inexperienced youthful players and had limited resources like transportation, soccer boots and most of our players were sitting for their examinations, but we managed to avoid relegation as we finished in position four,” he alluded.

In 2017/18 season, he said the team won the Second Division League and qualified for the Debswana First Division North playoffs. During the playoffs, the team represented Francistown region, against other three teams from other regions, to be precise Chobe United, Maun Terrors and White Diamond from Boteti region.

In addition, the young tactician managed to produce quality players like Norman Mabaya who plays for Orapa united, Doctor David and Fortunate Thulare of Jwaneng Galaxy and Molaodi Tlhalefang of Security Systems who went and made their caps at the senior national team.

“I achieved one of my dreams; that is to take my team to the elite league and I’m left with one that is coaching at national level and I think after getting my license I will be ready to lead under 17, 20, 23 and even the national team cause it just requires humility, love, perseverance and commitment, but right I can offer my services cause football is in the heart,” he said.

Mpatane revealed his intention is to see more of his players participating at national level and overseas, as this week Zebras interim coach Mogomotsi Mpote called the 18-year-old Monty Enosa to be part of Zebras team which will compete for COSAFA tournament that is set to kick off next month.

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