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AFCON 2021 was always a fallacy

Zebras

In a country that places sport at the bottom of its priorities, Botswana Senior national team’s dream of qualifying to the 33rd edition of the African prestigious tournament was a misconception right from the beginning.

With Adel Amrouche, recruited and paid a staggering P 250 000 to embody the future of the Zebras squad, his buoyance and pragmatic style of coaching appeared to confuse different ideologies of the game.

Botswana’s elite league has been in chains for over a year now. Players’ fitness, without doubt took a nose dive because majority of them had never kicked the ball in a competitive game. Dangling bigger carrots by the Government of Botswana at a very crucial stage was never going to help the situation.

These stories of a disjointed association and league point rather wearily to the basic obstacle on Botswana’s own path to Cameroon games. A Premier League that refused to restart the games and many published Government Gazette that closed out sport have edged Botswana’s national team concerns to the fringes. Players are not allowed to play at club level but are expected to kick the ball and win on the international stage.

Football for a very long time has been feeding from crumps. There is no clear budget for sport and even 11th hour incentives cannot help turn the corner, only thorough preparations can.

For far too long, Botswana has become a little more than a spectator in an African Cup of Nations qualifying race. The future of this footballing nation now mirrors a tomorrow that may never come. It does not come by fluke…like many aspects of life, even in football, there are no short cuts. There is no easy way to the top. It tells a story that we are jumbling preparations of the game, no wonder we could not juggle the ball better than Zimbabwe.

But all these things come from afar. When Amrouche was employed, like many of his predecessors, he was asked to take the team to AFCON finals, but this never materialized because there is no clear road map. Some of the stories are of course his own doing. The reported fall out he had with some players and members of the technical team meant that he earned himself many enemies.

Many loved his tough nosed approach to disciplinary issues. When he came in he put his foot on the ground and immediately suspended about four players for disobeying his laid down camp rules.

Amrouche is not a man who trusts easily. He fired almost everyone he feels sabotaged him. He ultimately surrounded himself with few faces new to the game. Unfortunately, it turned out that he was doing it too much…running the show all by himself.

His prize tag was justifiable enough to qualify the team to the African show piece but little did he know that he had many enemies who prayed day and night that he does not make it.

Statistically, his coaching resume in the country does not inspire confidence. He played a total of 8 games. He won 1 game and lost 5, the other two games ended in a stalemate. This is from a man who smiles all the way to the bank to withdraw P250 000 every month.

With Amrouche, Botswana was expected to take some pride from Cape Verde of 2010 and Madagascar of 2019; they can’t just leave with crossed arms, and so followers thought this was going to be a one-on-one match.

But as fate finally proved it, Botswana is not organized in doing their things, no wonder their success, both in the region and the continent is not highly merited. A coach given blank administration duties slowly became a rolling stone.

He is allowed to recruit players and negotiate contracts for them with oversea clubs. While some see it as a good gesture, to others is a direct conflict of interest. It means players would not be picked on merit, but in line of favouritism.  This explains why Tshepo Maikano, the Zebras trusted right back, was benched because he had a fallout with the coach mid-way through the preparations. He was replaced with Gape Gaogane who was being trialled in the position.

This is the reason players like Kobamelo Kebaikanye played the entire game simply because he is in good books with the coach.

Without doubt, and by his own admission, Amrouche has failed. He has sabotaged the country and he too has been sabotaged.

Striker Teenage Orebonye and midfielder Kabelo Seakanyeng could have played the Zimbabwe affair, but it turns out that some within the federation sit until the last hour to process their visas, consequently spoiling Amrouche’s plans.

These are the two players Amrouche personally ensured that they play in oversea games but he now knows that AFCON 2021 failure cannot be accepted.

Sport

Rollers make digital strides

11th June 2021
rollers_0121

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.

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Sport

GU finally snatches Ditsele

3rd June 2021
Lebogang Ditsele

Hard tackling midfielder, Lebogang Ditsele has completed a move from Botswana Premier League (BPL) champions, Jwaneng Galaxy, to Gaborone United in a reported lucrative two-year deal, WeekendSport can confirm.

The Reds have finally made their move for their long-time target and the enterprising midfielder is said to be happy to have completed the transfer after a heavy fall out with Galaxy management.

He wants to play football that pays, something which Galaxy cannot offer and the allure of GU was certainly too much for Ditsele to turn a blind eye.

The team as led and directed by construction magnate, Nicholas Zakhem- who is reported to have given ‘CCTV’ a mouth-watering P30 000 per month plus winning bonuses contract in demonstration of their seriousness to win silverware.

Sometime in March, the industrious player gave Galaxy an ultimatum-to either improve his contract benefits or let him go-after a decision was taken to offer the whole team pay cuts amid the devastating effects of the corona virus pandemic.

Galaxy had arrived at a conclusion of giving each player P 3000 until a time football returns to the field with moneyed sponsorships.

“We are proud to have signed him because he will add quality to our squad once football returns. Always a quality player and like him and he is now available, you don’t say there is no football, you tie him down before other clubs beat you to his signature,” said club Director, Nicholas Zakhem.

It is believed that Ditsele has always recognized GU as one of the country’s leading clubs, capable of competing for the grandest prizes. Ditsele was at Gilport Lions before he was snatched up by Galaxy and now GU.  His moves come as no surprise as his dream has always been to play for high paying clubs.

No doubt, Ditsele has enjoyed his years at Galaxy, where he is feted by the supporters, but the lad has always felt that the time is right to move on. Ditsele leaves having a year left on his contract.

It is impossible to dispute the value and service that he has given to the club, with the last season being his best, winning the premiership title.

Once Galaxy has sent him to overseas club at Highlands Park but returned home after a short stint.

However, the fan favourite, who has had an on and off relationship with the national team, The Zebras, was never going to be held by the terms of his contract.

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Sport

No injury problems for Amos

2nd June 2021
Nijel Amos

Despite encountering an injury scare ahead of the IAAF Diamond League circuit this week, Nijel Amos’ Olympic dream is still on track and he remains ever capable to stun the world by replicating his famous feat at the 2012 Olympic Games.

This was confirmed by his coaches and doctors after the Botswana star suffered a minor calf injury that forced him out of the weekend race. The multiple conqueror of 800m races is expected back on the track on June 9th to shake off this injury scare and face the possibilities of winning another Olympic medal. This likelihood only has one month to go!

Amos remains the only Motswana athlete to ever win a medal at the Olympic Games, a rare but magnificent accomplishment that still lingers in the memory of Botswana sport fraternity. At the time, he was only 18 years and strange enough, that silver medal felt like Gold for many.

His anticipated presence at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is on course to renew the long standing rivalry between him and the Kenyan 800m world record holder, David Rudisha. This is the same Kenyan competitor who won Gold when Botswana’s Amos came second in a race that would become the toast of the competitions at the London Olympics.

However, two years later, at 2014 Commonwealth Games, Amos dethroned Rudisha in another breath-taking race that confirmed and sparked the ongoing thrilling competitiveness — filled with pleasure, pain and sporting hatred- between the two.

When Amos was beaten in London, he never cared who won the race but was ecstatic to have finished at the podium, writing his name into Olympic Game folklore.

But in Glasgow, for Rudisha, defeat seemed not to have diminished his hopes. After the finish, when the lacerations were sharpest and the wound deepest, Rudisha was pictured hugging Nijel Amos, and congratulating him for a job well done.

Then, Amos was just 20 years, oozing with confidence. The shy looking Rudisha wrapped a Kenyan flag around his back and went on a lap of honour to celebrate his silver medal.

If there was disappointment Rudisha masked it with the skill of an actor. He smiled and waved as he received a standing ovation. “Amos is a tough competitor and he was very good,” Rudisha once admitted, stating matters of sporting facts that would follow between the two runners. Win. Lose. Win. Lose.

But then, there have been echoes of a swollen Muhammad Ali after his defeat to Joe Frazier, winking at the hundreds of fans who had converged at his hotel, determined to show light on his darkest day. The bruises on that day were to Rudisha’s record, not his face. Like Ali, he promised to be back.

But that night was about Amos. A callow 18-year-old who finished second to Rudisha at London 2012 sharpened his confidence, hardened by beating his idol twice on the Diamond League circuit, grew with each passing year.

However, both athletes began to suffer sporting injuries of their own, they lost the edge they were well-known for and it is why at the 2016 Olympic Games, the bookmakers were upset when they could not meet at the final. It was Amos who faltered in the heats and although Rudisha became the first Kenyan to retain an Olympic title, it was not as scintillating as it was in 2012.

Now with a month to go, Amos is living in prayer, hoping he stays free from injuries. He is looking forward to become the star again. He has won everything at the diamond league and broke every national record, but his eyes are still fixed on the ultimate prize- the Gold medal at the international stage, with or without David Rudisha.

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