The struggle to make two ends meet within Botswana football circumstances can no longer be ignored.
A year after football was halted in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19, nothing pleasant has come the way of premier league clubs, many of which have gone bankrupt immediately after the first countrywide lock down was announced.
Players’ form and fitness levels have taken nosedives due lack of football activity, but the reported rise of anxiety and depression within their circle is what has added insult to injury.
According to the recent football study by International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPRO), 48% of footballers in Botswana have reported anxiety symptoms, worrying about their immediate future in football.
As football survives from sponsors and donors, players’ lives are now directly dependent on hand outs and food hampers.
But that cannot be sustainable in a football environment desperately in need of fine tuning and paradigm shift.
Notwane Football Club, one of the perennial campaigners of the elite league, is the latest to join the bandwagon, demanding immediate disbursement of FIFA relief funds from the association.
The club, spearheaded by Tebogo Sebego, whose bid for BFA presidency was unsuccessful last year forwarded a demand letter to the association on March 8, that Notwane and other clubs are feeling incapacitated to carry on with football matters.
Notwane began their demand with much assurance that FIFA, the world football governing body, has approved a COVID relief fund but there is no exact explanation as to why nothing is coming their way.
“It is a factual position that FIFA approved a COVID-19 relief plan to assist not only the member association but also clubs and players to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
To date, there has not been any communication pertaining to disbursement of payment which has resulted in players’ welfare being compromised contrary to the spirit and intention of the FIFA COVID relief plan,” Sebego wrote.
BFA, under the stewardship of Maclean Letshwiti, finds itself not only battling the coronavirus, but also fighting tooth and nail to prove critics wrong that football is not dead in Botswana.
The Notwane letter, with Sebego seemingly on top of his game to pile pressure at Lekidi Football Centre, cannot have come at time when minds of the National Executive Committee (NEC) have no clue on how best to return to the field with or without sponsors.
Word from the seemingly tense committee is that BFA is considering buying COVID- 19 medical equipment and give each club in the elite league to test their own players. The debate appears to be taking long hence the appeal by Notwane and other clubs to fight from their corner.
“We therefore, on behalf of players and staff demand a written confirmation of the status of disbursement and time lines thereof. We believe that FIFA has already disbursed to the member Associations and therefore remittance should have been made to the various structures in terms of the plan approved by the NEC,” Notwane further posited.
BFA on the other hand says it has already distributed the first instalment before last year and soon the second disbursement will follow. According to insiders, the plan would have been approved in January but why it is not yet the case is still unknown.
FIFA COVID-19 relief fund was approved following FIFA council meeting convened on 26th June 2020. The basis of the relief fund is to achieve the right social and economic impact to support club football and, players and staff through these troubled waters.
There is fear that clubs will soon revolt against the association and the aforementioned demand is just a tip of the iceberg.
Gaborone United was this week crowned 2021/2022 Botswana Premier League (BPL) champions following their 1-0 win over the holders, Jwaneng Galaxy. Thero Setsile’s 13th minute’s goal was enough to seal the league championship, ending 13 years of drought from the Old Naledi outfit.
With two games to go before the top-flight season wraps up, Gaborone United opened a seven points gap to second placed Township Rollers having accumulated 63 points from twenty eight games. The Money machine were the first team to open a new chapter in the history books of Botswana football, when they were crowned the inaugural 2008/09 be Mobile Premiership champions, that came up with P1 million as prize money. Thereafter the club has been on the league drought as it could only manage winning Coca Cola FA Cup in 2012, Mascom top 8 twice in 2013 and 2015. They also won the Orange FA cup last season.
The return of Zackhem as the club financier signaled a new era with a number of galactic signings for the 2021/2022 season. The team brought into their fold big names in local football; Kekaetswe Moloi, Lesego Galenamotlhale and Joel Mogorosi. The arrival of enterprising left wing back Mothusi Johnson, dribbling wizard Mpho Kgaswane and hard tackling midfielder, Lebogang Ditsele made the job easier for the coaches.
Attacker Onkabetse Makgantai also joined the marauding attackers in Thatayaone Kgamanyane and Thero Setsile to make their front line combination the deadliest in the league. Both Kgamanyane and Setsile have netted 34 goals this season with the goal minder Goitseone Phoko keeping 20 clean sheets thus far while conceding just 10 goals. GU is still on the Orange FA Cup race and football commentators believe that they are the favorites looking at the quality of their squad.
As it stands should the Money Machine win all their remaining games, they stand a chance to equal the highest championship winning points record of 76 points which set by Mochudi Center chiefs during the 2007-2008 football season. That record stood for 14 years and Gaborone United could equal that feat should they win their remaining games against Sua Flamingos and struggling Notwane. The Money Machine made the bold statement begging of the 2021/2020 football season when they won 11 games straight games without even conceding a goal.
The Reds, who are under the guidance of Innocent Morapedi, a seasoned coach and his assistant Pontsho Moloi, has been consistent in the title race. In the process, the Old Naledi side has scored 59 goals while conceding the least goals (10 goals) and has a superior goal difference of 49 goals. Gaborone United success breaks Township Rollers and Mochudi Center Chiefs dominance as the only teams to have won the league title more than any other club in the last 13 seasons. GU’s proximity to money and talent were key this season.
Domestically since GU last won the league title, Mochudi Center Chiefs have won it three times; whilst the most decorated football club with 16 titles, Rollers has been dominating the league, winning five titles on the spin in five seasons from 2013-14 to 2018-19. Last season, Jwaneng Galaxy was crowned champions for the very first time due to being at the top of the table when the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the season to be prematurely halted with ten games to play.
After two years of no action across various sports codes including softball, Botswana Softball Association (BSA) is going back to the grounds to resuscitate the sport.
This weekend all roads lead to Selibe Phikwe for the top eight ladies championship. The eight ladies teams comprise the top four ladies teams from the south and north regions. They will then come together and form eight teams and battle it out this weekend at the Phikwe Softball Grounds and Area 2 Mowana Ball Park. The competing ladies teams are Titans, Police, Vikings, UB Giants, Rail giants, Scramblers, Carats and Ghetto Yankees. The champions will be crowned thereafter.
Softball Association Public relations officer, Boingotlo Marope explained that this tournament is not only for ladies, she said men’s championship will be held at Gaborone on the 28th May 2022. She said they have noticed that everything is confined to Gaborone as their headquarters in the southern region. As a result they have decided to take other activities to the northern region as well. “We are trying to grow softball, we don’t want everything to surround Gaborone only which is why the ladies tournament will be held at Selebi Phikwe in the northern region to bring equality.”
However, she explained that the reason they were missing in action is because of Covid 19. “We saw government cautionary trying to protect everyone by putting certain restrictions as spots had to stop for 12 months, we welcomed 12 months to protect Batswana. As a results that lead to the closure as there were no games”.
In addition Marope said they currently don’t have sponsors however private sector has always come through. Bofinet has to cut the sponsorship but that is not due to Covid 19 crisis. “Bofinet has showed commitment, they promised that as soon as they are settled they will come to our door knocking again,” she added.
Marope further said as a results they rely on their tight budget. Few of players has been sponsored, some has to dig from their own pockets, some parents cannot sent their children as some had to quit. “We have worked with our tight budget to assist teams and hoping that in the coming season we can have somebody to assist”.
The Botswana national boxing team recently returned from the zone 4 championship held in Mozambique. The team was led by head coach Thebe Setlalekgosi, two assistant coaches, Gibson Rauwe and Pearl Mooketsi. Two referees and judges, Gaseitsewe Ponatshego and Linda Mooketsi.
In the women’s category, Lethabo Modukanele was representing Botswana in the 48 kg division, while Phekie Bele and Sadie Kenosi were competing in the 57 kg and 60 kg categories, respectively. In the men’s category, Kobamelo Molatlhegi was representing the country in the 52 kg division, while Rajab Mahomed was competing in the under 51 kg category.George Molwantwa was competing for under 57 kg category and Treasure Moremi was competing for under 60kg category.
The boxers came home with seven medals, Modukanele came home with a gold medal, Kenosi, Rajab, Molatlhegi all came home with silver medals. While Moremi, Molwantwa and Phekie Bele all came home with bronze medals.
According to Moitshepi Nkabiti, the public relations officer of the Botswana Boxing Association, the team performed well and that they were hoping that Rajab would also bring home a gold medal. However, due to an eye injury, he could not participate in the finals.
He stated that, “though some people might think that how our team performed is not an achievement it is a big achievement to us. Other countries came with 19 boxers while we only came with our seven boxers, and they all came back with medals. That is something that we have to be proud of I really commend them for their performance. Having 5 players making it to the finals is really a blessing and we should not take it for granted.”
According to Nkabiti, Botswana was ranked fourth in the zone 4 championship, which was held in Mozambique. Other countries that participated in the tournament included South Africa, Zambia, Eswatini, and Seychelles. They all had a total of 19 boxers. Lesotho also had eight boxers.