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.
A section of troubled First Division South outfit, Mochudi Centre Chiefs are said to pulling out all stops to ensure that the club finally transitions into a company amid reports of instability and divisions.
According to a leaked letter from founders who are represented by Sexton Kowa and Ramocha Tsieng, the society has taken a decision to request Thapelo Tsheole who is currently the chairman, to hand over the team back to the society.
” Following the resolution passed by the members of the Mochudi Centre Chiefs Sporting Club(society) at its annual(AGM) held on the 18th August 2019 at Ntefo Conference facility in Mochudi to convert the society to a company limited by shares and with consent of the society, a company was duly incorporated on the 21st February 2020 being Mochudi Centre Chiefs (Proprietary) Limited, (the company) by six founders of the Society namely, Messrs, Aaron Ramosako, Molefi Sexton Kowa, Joel Mpete, Archie Aphiri, Rejoice Tlhowe, and Tshepo Aphiri (herein “The Funders” ), represented by Mr Molefi Sexton Kowa and Mr Ramocha Tsieng. The AGM further resolved that once the company was formed, the affairs of the society will be handed over to the company to manage,” reads the part of the missive written to Tsheole.
Contacted for comment, Mochudi Centre Chiefs President, Thapelo Tsheole stated that he is yet to officially receive the letter but has seen it from a friend who has seen it circulating on social media. “I cannot comment on the issue further because it was shown to me by a friend who saw it circulating on social media; but we will give it the attention it deserves and I plead with Centre Chiefs faithful to be calm,” he said.
The club president intends to keep his eyes on the ball: “We will handle the issue with the utmost respect because at the end of the day Mochudi Centre Chiefs brand should be the winner and this should always be our aim.” Tsheole has been leading the side and was tasked with reviving the team and bringing them back to the elite league.
The circulating letter is a culmination of power struggle between Tsheole and the so-called founders of the club. Sources speaking with WeekendSport state that Tsheole wanted both Directors to cede 75 percent of their shares to society as he believes the transitional route from society to a company has been bypassed.
Tsheole officially raised his hand for the first time this year, in an attempt to bring an end to more than a decade of controversy over Chiefs’ ownership, and appeared to have pinned his hopes on reaching an agreement with both Kowa and Ramotlhwa because of their status and good standing as former Chiefs’ administrators.
However, those close to developments believed that Tsheole, who also leads Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE), was wasting his time trying to negotiate with the duo, who were already determined to resist all efforts. This follows unsuccessful negotiations where both Directors were alleged to have been left in utter shock concerning the approach and presentation of the Chairman.
While the two Directors would not be drawn to comment, it is said they are both hamstrung to divulge deeper details to Tsheole because of his ambition to transform the club. While Tsheole thought he was jumping off the hoops for the club, the two directors seem not to appreciate his efforts.
Tsheole, was reportedly surprised when he tried to register a commercial footballing company on behalf of Mochudi Centre Chiefs. He deliberately chose the ‘Mochudi Centre Chiefs’ name because of its popularity as it remains a brand country wide.He found out that the company name already exists and is under the directorship of both Kowa and Ramotsha.
While Mochudi Center Chiefs PTY LTD was registered sometime in February of this year, there was another company, Centre Chiefs PTY LTD, associated with the club which has been in existence since the early 1990s. This is the same company that acquired a 7 hector piece of land in Mochudi.
The company had 7 directors namely Victor Kowa as the Executive Chairman, Ezekiel Mooki who was appointed the Technical Director, Serake Mfolwe holding the post of director of Marketing and Public Relations, Simon Mmopi coming as Director of Development, MacLean Letshwiti holding the fort as Director of Finance, Sexton Kowa who was Youth Development Director, and Kgafela Kgafela who occupied the post of Director of Legal Affairs and Board Secreta.
Zebras midfielder, Mothusi Cooper is set to be one of the top paid players at his new club, Lusaka Dynamos, following his move from Township Rollers on a two-year deal with an option to extend by a year.
The 23 year-old who joined Township Rollers from Extension Gunners in 2018 has proved to be one of the best midfielders in the country. Cooper’s new contract will see him smile all the way to the bank as he is expected to earn US$ 2500 monthly (about P25 000) with a winning bonus of US$ 350 (about P3 500) per game. The Tsabong-born player is said to have already received P250 000.00 signing-on fee from the club.
“At Rollers he was getting around P13 000 and with COVID-19 effects his pay had went down so he could not resist such an offer. He also had ambitions to play abroad so with such opportunities sometimes you have to take them because they may come once in a lifetime since football is a short career,” said a source at Rollers.
Cooper, who was recently unveiled by Lusaka Dynamos has agreed personal terms with the club, but negotiations between the two clubs are yet to be completed. “Cooper is on his way to Zambia but we are yet to sign the final documents with Dynamos as we been negotiating with them. We are hopefully that everything will be signed any moment but we have agreed to let the player go since he agreed terms with the team,” said Township Rollers club President, Jagdish Shah.
Lusaka Dynamos owner and director, Hanif Adams revealed that the deal is done and they will do everything to finalise pending matters. “We expect Cooper to be here this Friday and it will be up to the coach whether to play him or not when we face Green Eagles this weekend,” revealed Hanif Adams who is a respected businessman in Zambia.
Zambian sports journalist, Puncherello Chama has cautioned Cooper that he will have to fight his way to be on the first eleven of his new side. “Cooper is an exciting player and he has impressed Zambians during our two games against Zebras and already fans this side are looking forward to see him in action but he will have to fight for a starting place in Patrick Phiri led team,” he said.
“And should Cooper perform well this side I believe it will open more doors for other Botswana players to come this side, people should not undermine the Zambian league as it is ranked 7th in Africa and it has exported players all over the world in the past years.”
Lusaka Dynamos who are nicknamed The Elite, are currently on 10th position in Zambian MTN Super League table and have lost their last game to Prison Leopards 4-2 but the club hopes to redeem itself this year when they take on Green Eagles Saturday (today).
The current crop of Zebras strikers is arguably apocryphal, and the vicissitude engulfing the national team has rendered them to a ‘milk and water’ status – very weak! Zebras is currently playing AFCON qualifiers and the team has scored a mere two goals in four matches!
Don’t be fooled by the 1-0 win against Zambia recently, it’s just an eye wash, win and loss in football are like Kith and Kin – the bottom-line is that our strikers are evidently gentlemen at large! This damning conclusion on the senior men National Team is deduced from the lethargic performances since the maiden appearance at the AFCON 2012. It is a fact that the frontline attack has grown toothless since returning from their maiden AFCON cup qualifiers in February of 2012.
This is not just a squawk about Zebras strike force without basis. To steer clear of any assumed malice, here is why every firm football fan could be steamed up right now – ever since the disappearance of striker Jerome Jay Jay Ramatlhakwane, none of the selected strikers is hitting the net consistently as he once did! They have all literally failed to step into JJ shoes.
Between the 2015 and 2019 AFOCN Qualifiers, it has been uninspiring performances from the Zebras men in front of the goals. The strikers have played nine (9) rounds of games and they have scored only twice. While we could be stirring up a hornet’s nest with this matter of fact write-up, we are prepared to stick to our guns – the current crop of strikers is failing the national team.
It shouldn’t appear we trying to stretch the truth. Let’s look at the 2012 qualifying rounds, Zebras played eight (8) games and scored seven (7) times. Striker Jay Jay alone found the net five (5) times hence ascending to the summit of the top scorers’ list in Africa alongside deadly Senegalese striker, Mamadou Niang. At a personal level, this was a wonderful, hard-earned moment of sporting grace for the monstrous built striker whose body built suited his Zebras role to a T. His scoring ability remains unmatched up to now.
For far too long, The Zebras players, strikers to be more precise, have become little more than spectators in any African Cup of Nations qualifying scoring race. By extension, the future of scoring players mirrors a tomorrow that may never come. Ever since the remarkable and buccaneering record set during the wonderful seasons of striker Jerome Ramatlhakwane in 2011, The Zebras striking force has been nothing but a blunt knife – this is for the record.
Here is the sum and substance of our situation at the Zebras – four (4) AFCON finals passed without anybody hitting the net consistently. Other than trying and experimenting with a handful of strikers, our tiny land locked country struggled to find its way out of a mediocre zone.
But along the visible lines of pedestrian performances, the name of Jerome Ramatlhakwane remains popular in this country and by extension, Southern Africa. Believe it or not, Jay-Jay as he is popularly known, has built a legacy for himself that is unrivalled.
He is arguably one of the most highly acclaimed footballers this country has birthed, albeit with little success due to lack of exposure and many other obstacles the robust player has experienced in his football career. Ramatlhakwane has been both the darling and the villain in the media and in the country for the display he provides on the field of play.
With the senior national team failing to score goals, one wonders how Jay-Jay used to find the back of the net with such ease. Records are here for everyone to see but as Mark Twain argued, ‘facts are stubborn and statistics are pliable.’
With a career spanning from 2006 till date, Jay-Jay is Botswana’s all-time leading goal scorer, having found the back of the net on 21 occasions, with 53 caps under his belt and counting. Jay-Jay’s skill as a box striker is second to none; the striker is a marvel to watch on the field of play. His agility and sheer love of the game gives him an aura of a warrior on the battlefield.
That is why it is hard to comprehend why Jay-Jay is still a local player, why scouts haven’t scooped him up. A player of his calibre and the skill he possess as a finisher makes it obvious that he could be destined for greater things. Jay-Jay would make for a pronounced addition to any international club.
Hot on his heels is Botswana’s poster boy, Diphetogo Selolwane who hanged his boots post the 2012 AFCON showpiece. He has 18 goals from 68 caps in a football career that kick started in 1998. In terms of play, Selolwane and Tshepiso Molwantwa, the famous jersey number 9 owner, are better than Jay-Jay but when it comes to statistics, Jay-Jay has the upper hand, this leaves one to ponder; is this what Mark Twain meant when he argued that statistics can be bent?
It’s a shock to learn that Molwantwa has won himself 44 international caps but only 8 recognized goals. We take a dim view of Molwantwa when it comes to goals scored but take heart in his selfless maneuvers on the field of play.
In modern Botswana football, Omaatla Kebatho of Orapa United and the late Oliver Phikati have all failed to rise to the occasion and with coaches not willing to give Teenage Orebonye enough opportunities, the Zebras’ striking situation has been a well-documented issue that portrays how and why The Zebras have failed to move up in the world rankings. JJ should have shown some of these players the ropes.
There seems to be no striker who will soon surpass Jay-Jay. The likes of Jomo Moatlhaping and Joel Mogorosi who have practically retired may have given the dominant striker a run for his money. Mogorosi is sitting third on the rankings with 14 goals from 79 appearances.
Only Onkabetse Makgantai can turn the tide on Jay-Jay’s story, should he come to the party. Onkabetse stands at 12 international caps with 5 goals, a far cry from what Jay-Jay resume reads. But in a squad that is losing its renowned defensive stability, Jerome can still score top marks in all aspects of the game, especially when he is working with a crafty midfielder.
Looking back at that goal reel, if ever there is one, in among the bullet headers, the tap-ins, the dinks and spins, there is a sense of man constructing a monument for himself. For Jay-Jay, the 2012 AFCON showpiece may have been the last significant mark to pass. One that may not, all things considered, be surpassed. All the hope we have on the current crop of strikers – just a shot in the dark!