In a country battling the spread of corona virus from all angles, the football fraternity in Botswana is however, nearing cross roads. Indications are that the popular sport might not return anytime soon given the high standards of health guidelines the game has to satisfy.
Since the beginning of last week, health officials, Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Footballer’s Union of Botswana are engaging in protracted deliberations of kick- starting the football leagues around the country.
The game has gone into lockdown since early March as the country went into curfew to curb the spread of the pandemic. However, this week administrators of the game have needed to outline their plans for the future, and its proven easier said than done.
Conditions in Botswana and by extension Africa are peculiar. Teams, prior to the spread of the virus, were struggling to make ends meet and given the expectations facing them, it is highly unlikely that the game will return soon.
Sources highlight that, as part of the preparatory guidelines, clubs are anticipated to conduct tests for their players, a task too difficult to execute.
Public health authorities world-wide have been concerned that given the players’ direct contact with each other and the close interactions with the general public, in addition to their regular travels, they have been super accelerators of the virus.
In the eyes of health authorities, part of the impetus for testing players is that they are quick spreaders who unknowingly spread to people.
However, BFA and other state holders are mindful of the scarcity of corona virus testing equipment in the country. They believe that this will need government buy-in as priority is given to those who came from highly infected areas and those showing symptoms.
Clubs are also expected to use two sets of similar kits for the entire 90 minutes of the game. One kit for the first half and the other in the second stanza. As things stand, no team in the elite league can manage the situation. As if it is not enough, players are expected to stay in one place until the league comes to an end.
Botswana clubs have failed dismally to cater for players who are in camp and the looming expectation from health specialists is too much to bear. Before lockdown, there were 10 games left to play. The Union’s Secretary General, Kgosana Masaseng says their input is dependent on the advice of health professionals.
“We are in the process of sharing notes with the association and health authorities, but bear in mind that our contribution will also be guided by what health authorities want,” he shared. It is said that BFA is looking at three options currently on its table. Each decision is informed by facts and scenarios and one is independent on the other.
The first option, BFA says is to stop the league where it is and crown the team that occupies the first place, which is Jwaneng Galaxy. Furthermore, three teams lying in the bottom of the table will be relegated and teams on pole positions from Debswana First Division north and south will be promoted.
By all accounts, the association feels it is a controversial option to undertake but also equitable for the sake of progress. The second available possibility is 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.
This therefore means that football might have to wait until the end of state of emergency and later be stretched to the February-November calendar. This football season was considered also because of adverse hot conditions unfavourable to the playing conditions in Botswana.
As things stand, a country like Zambia has kept CAF posted that they are likely to return to this football calendar after the virus subsides.
The last possibility is to nullify all the leagues. This was – and continues to be – the last resort. Across all the global leagues, the domestic campaign has only 10 matches left, which could, in theory, be completed in a space of five weeks.
Given that backdrop, why would anyone – ulterior motives accepted – want to get rid of the work put in over the previous seven months and pretend it never happened? It is a question BFA should ask themselves as they ponder on the future.
Only Gaborone United (GU), from the elite league, has benefited simply because they have qualified their accounts to the ministry.
Premier League clubs’ patience is finally wearing thin as the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture Development delays the payment of the promised subventions. The Ministry undertook to assist football clubs to make ends meet as corona virus locked down sporting activities.
This publication gathers that the clubs are however forced to wait longer than expected as the Ministry further assesses the situation.
In May, the Ministry of Sport made a reverberating assurance that it will assist clubs bearing in mind the direct impact of COVID- 19 within the local sport. The Tumiso Rakgare led ministry ascertain clubs that they are ready to pay each player P 2.500 for the months of April, May and June.
This kind of assistance /promise was also extended to players plying their trade in the First division league, a stream of clubs just one step below the elite league. There, players are anticipated to receive P 1.500 each for the same period of three months.
However, clubs have begun to show impatience and their temperament towards the Sport Ministry is beginning to shift. Clubs believe what the ministry wants is difficult to prove and will take ages to process for them to qualify for the subventions.
Various club chairpersons refused to comment citing the just released memo that bars them from talking with the media.
It is, all the while, noted that only Gaborone United (GU), from the elite league, has benefited simply because they have qualified their accounts to the ministry. It is also well-known that clubs like BDF XI, Police XI and Prisons XI will not profit from the ministry subvention because they are already aided by the government.
In an earlier interview, Rakgare said clubs should exercise patience and wait for the right time. He said that government transactions are often times slow to be processed but surely it will be done.
“Let me urge the clubs to be patient, government protocols always take some time to be finalized, but for sure, the government keeps its promises even up to now,” he assured.
Some clubs say the sport sector form is difficult to complete. Others say the Ministry has returned them to finalize the paper documents and by the look of things what they want is not easy to give out.
The Ministry needs players/teams to provide proof of wage bill income before the arrival of COVID -19. They also want proof of signed player contracts from clubs. Furthermore clubs are expected to forward proof of compliance with the registrar of societies. Teams are also expected to provide copies of staff payroll for the months of January, February and March.
Moreover, the Ministry wants affidavits indicating that no other relief assistance has been received by clubs. It is why clubs like Township Rollers and Security Systems will not have a dime from the Sport Ministry account because they have applied for the separate BURS subsidy.
A total of 25 players are expected to benefit from each team. For one team, the government is expected to assist with P62.500 per month.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) together with Coaches Association of Botswana have smoked a peace pipe and promised to work for the good of the game after enduring a frosty relationship that spanned three years.
The two organizations found common ground roughly a month before the football association is to hold elective congress for determination of new office bearers.
In 2017, the Coaches Association wanted BFA to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for purposes of recognition as associate members. It was their view that they could not operate in isolation.
Coaches say they have been running their affairs alongside the governance of the association and this has not helped their course.It is why upon their self-actualization review, they found out that they incurred unnecessary operational costs.
“We really cannot operate in isolation, we need the association to work hand in hand with, we are glad that we have kissed and made up,” Nare who is the interim President told this publication.
The Coaches Association was livid because the current BFA regime refused to recognize them well in time. The two sides have found each and the association is believed to have promised to clear some of the debts the coaches have left behind.
It is said the Coaches Association have a debt of P40 000 of unpaid rentals. All their furniture have been attached, this means they have to start from square one again.
The Coaches Association had also refused to sign a code of ethics for coaching because they believe it is better it is channelled in another way. The coaches said it is best they sign the code of ethics after a thorough consultation exercise is done.
An agreement was also made that the Coaches Association of Botswana will register coaches while the BFA will only provide licensing. Again, the coaches have vowed to give advices and run refresher courses for themselves while observing signage between themselves.
The coaches also agreed to play a leading role on who should be appointed as national coaches but not necessarily forcing the BFA to go with their choices. Moreover, coaches want to have a representative at the BFA Technical Committee, one who can represent their views well and unbiased.
The coaches are happy that the association has given them an ear at a very crucial time. Although not highly held, the coaches are anticipated to help canvass country wide support for the current administration to retain power. A couple of them believe the Letshwiti led administration should be accorded a second opportunity to implement their mandate.
The coaches held this meeting with aspiring second Vice President, Masego Ntshingane. The former BDF XI player is believed to be growing well under President Letshwiti and it is why he wants to show the football fraternity why he dumped his former cadres for the new involvement. He is standing against Senki Sesenyi and former Letshwiti supporter Solly Ramochothwane.
Efforts to reach Ntshingane were futile as his phone rang unanswered.
Gaborone United (GU) has had their opportunity in the courtrooms of FIFA-the world football governing body- to make their case and fight from all angles to force South Africa’s Chippa United to pay them for the purchase of players, Kabelo Seakanyeng and Thatayaone Kgamanyane.
The two players were sold almost two years ago at a combined fee of P600 000 and it appears Chippa has been playing a waiting game until the domestic side’s patience wilted away. GU, therefore, approached FIFA for legal redress and the June 1st verdict came out in their favour. Chippa United is directed to pay GU P 600 000 within 45 days.
Chippa was left with an egg on the face and was slapped with an ultimatum that should they fail to process the transaction; they will be banned for registering new players, either nationally or internationally, up until the due amount is fully paid. The South African based club was reminded that three consecutive registration periods shall pass without them buying players.
It is not clear why Chippa United played a waiting game after buying the two Botswana international players. GU were represented by Lore Morapedi Attorneys while Chippa, the major actors in this battle, had no representatives.
It is however recalled that the club, few months after signing the players, had their catalysed role in terminating the contracts of both players.
In January of 2019, sources told WeekendSport that Chippa United was facing serious financial meltdowns and as a last resort, a total of 10 players –a number dominated by foreigners- had to be released in a cost cutting exercise.
Seakanyeng and Kgamanyane were therefore the obvious fall guys as the club started to wield an axe. Both players had signed three year deals with the club after impressing at the annual COSAFA Castle Cup tournament held in July of 2018. The two were signed from Gaborone United (GU) where Chippa was to pay a total of P2 million.
As the club was engaging the players, Seakanyeng was said to be battling an over powering dilemma when he wanted to refuse to accept a 6 month settlement. The player later returned to GU while Seakanyeng was signed a by club in Malta. Both were earning P 80 000 before tax deductions.
At the time of their release, Chippa United was under administration- a far demeaning situation that means that the club’s finances are monitored by the court while Premier Soccer League (PSL) was also intervening.
It is noted that PSL gives clubs R2 million a month for purposes of self-administration. How Chippa’s finances hit a red mark was yet to be established, but what is known is that the club gets a total of R10 million per year from Nelson Mandela Municipality, the government of the Eastern Cape.
The Eastern Cape government relocated Chippa United from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth so that there can be activity at the world cup stadium built in Port Elizabeth.