Township Rollers has reached a dead end on its awe-inspiring attempt to re- register a company meant to run and administer the affairs of the club. In fact, the club buoyed by the recent transformation redress by one Ashford Mamelodi, is eager to fully turn professional.
However, they are faced with a plethora of questions where one shareholder appears to have the keys to the doors which Rollers want to enter. The club management is reported to have requested to meet Somerset Gobuiwang to discuss and map the way forward. Somerset was expelled roughly 6 years ago from the company he alleged found to run the club.
It is indicated that Somerset formed a company called Township Holding (PTY) Ltd, where his shareholding stake is 40 percent. Jagdish Shah was also given 40 percent shares but as fate would have it, Shah ended up being the sole Director of the company with Somerset unceremoniously receiving the boot.
The sacking of Somerset has now opened a can of worms. It is coming to the fore that the now owner of Molepolole City Stars club was not properly consulted. In fact, it should have never happened that the Director be fired without taking into account his stake in the company.
Rollers allegedly tried to register another company but it proved to be a fruitless exercise as Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) pointed the club to the previous one. Rollers Chairman, Walter Kgabung together with the club media liaison Phempheretlhe Pheto refused to comment on the matter. Kgabung referred this publication to Pheto while Pheto himself took us back to Kgabung.
Somerset also could not be drawn into discussing the matter, only saying the main issues are with Rollers’ hierarchy. In September 2017, the Mma Masire west based club moved forward to initiate changes in the constitution. The Society has managed to redefine the constitution and add a new clause that ultimately protects the interest of investors and that of the Society.
Clause 22.4 has been added that, ‘‘the club shall adopt a model of sustainability and enable itself to operate without pitfalls.’’ Rollers has also leased the club to Shah for a period of 10 years. Under this model, the business tycoon will be at liberty to inject finances in the club coffers while the Society rents out the team’s properties.
Sources continue to mention that clause 11.4 has also been shaped to; ‘‘give executive committee powers to find an entity or company that can run and administer the affairs of the club.’’
The teams’ developmental path
During the colonial era (Bechuanaland Protectorate) was governed by the British, primarily from the administrative centre of Mafikeng, South Africa. With independence looming in the 1960s, a new capital had to spring up within the confines of Botswana’s borders and Gaborone was selected.
The government’s Public Works Department (PWD) workers, initially based at Lobatse, the transitional administrative centre, founded a football club. What had started as a social football team in 1961, -‘Mighty Tigers’- came to be organized into a football society in Gaborone in 1965, termed ‘Township Rollers Football Club.’
The PWD workers had been charged with building internal roads in Gaborone, then a small town, a ‘Township,’ and in building the roads, the workers used compacting equipment termed ‘Rollers.’ The Township Rollers logo adopted had an outlying design of a map of the early Gaborone roads the club founders built; Queens, Khama Crescent, Botswana Road, Independence Avenue, Kaunda Road, South Ring Road; and the ‘Rollers’ compacting equipment was depicted twice inside the logo, as well as a football and a soccer boot below them.
The club name, nickname ‘Tse Tala’ (The Blues) and motto ‘Popa Popa ea ipopa’ completed the logo. This original logo, used between 1965 and 2010 is now located at the centre of rebranded logo used over the past 5 years.
Club founders, the likes of Francis van Vuuren, worked with administrators like Mokhutshwane Sekgoma in building a great team around players like Clement ‘Captain Muller’ Muthelesi, Morwalela ‘Pro’ Seema, Mchuu ‘City’ Manyelela and Steering Matsila in the 1970s.
Player-coach Chibazo Kande led Rollers to the national league title in 1979 and 1980, then four titles in a row (1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985, still a national record), with players like Boyo Oris Radipotsane and Persia Diago. After the iconic Chibazo Kande passed away in a car accident, coach Ezekiel Mpofu added another title in 1987. Under administrators like Justice Baleseng Baleseng, Noel Liau and Kgomotso Mogapi, Rollers went further to win more trophies, including the 1995 league title.
But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Rollers fortunes plummeted. A disturbing trend had begun in the 1980s when BDF XI signed Popa stars including Sehularo ‘The Horse’ Pelekekae and Cocorico Mnese.
Resourced by the State, institutional sides like BDF XI, Mogoditshane Fighters (then an army side that won the league three times in a row under Major David Bright) and Police XI were starting to dominate Botswana club football.
The traditional giants, Township Rollers and Gaborone United were societies who were often cash-strapped and could not offer players permanent jobs like the institutional sides. Rollers and city rivals GU were both relegated in the early 2000s; a similar fate had befallen Mochudi Centre Chiefs in the mid 1990’s.
Rollers, founded as a football society, decided to have new arrangements where a holding company could nominate an investor to work with the society leadership in running the club. The first such Managing Director was Puma Mathware, under whose stewardship Rollers won the First Division in their only season outside the top flight. The ‘Blues’ proceeded to win double- the Super League (now the Premier League) and Coca Cola Cup- in the first season after promotion, 2004-5.
In 2006 the club was handed over to a new Managing Director, Somerset Gobuiwang. Working with the society executive led by the then Chairman David Spencer Mmui, Gobuiwang invested in the team and helped the ‘Blues’ return to their glory days. The club won the 2010 and 2011 league titles, and further silverware including the 2010 Coca Cola Cup and 2012 inaugural Mascom Top 8.
For the first time in Botswana football, a million Pula prize money was available, and match day ticket prices had gone up. Club merchandise also went on sale. This period also saw Rollers having major transfer of players- Moemedi ‘Jomo’ Moatlhaping, Phenyo Mongala, Boitumelo Mafoko, Terrence Mandaza, Mogakolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele, and Kabelo Dambe, Mosha Gaolaolwe and Simisane Mathumo- to South African PSL clubs.
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.
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.
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.