The verdict in the emotive misconduct proceedings instituted by the Botswana Football League (BFL) against Township Rollers would have been an anti-climax were it not for highly charged and sharply divided reaction it has generated.
After months of dithering, Rollers was last week slapped with a P15 000 fine for the use of the defaulter. This was either a slap on the wrist or a raw deal for Township Rollers, depending on which soccer jersey you are wearing.
From the very beginning, at least outside the disciplinary proceedings room, it was difficult to untangle the swirl of football political and social issues from the indictment. It is a case that cut to the very heart of Botswana’s football rivalry.
Contacted for comment the BFL chief executive officer, Solomon Ramochotlhwane said the league is still looking into the sentence. “BFL chief persecutor is still studying the judgment and will advise on the next move whether to accept the decision or appeal,” he said.
On the other hand, Rollers spokesperson Bafana Phetho, welcomed the judgment ‘for the sake of football.’ “It is not that we are happy with the decision, but we accept it for the sake of football” he said.
He further explained that if they were to appeal the decision, it would bring up many issues. “It could disturb pre-season preparations and it may lead to the delay in the commencement of the league. And football supporters would blame Rollers for delaying the season by pursuing justice.”
The Rollers PRO further explained that as a team, they still believe they are innocent. “We believe we were not at fault but we will abide by the decision.”
Pheto said Ratanang’s registration issue had an adverse effect on their previous season campaign. He said had it not been for this issue, they could have won the league. “We were disturbed by those who brought the issue. Had this issue not come up we would be the champions,” he said.
Football commentator Jimmy George, said ‘the judgment does not reflect what is on the ground and “it shows that there is plenty of lawlessness in our football. The whole thing is about power play nothing else” he said.
George observed that ‘judgments are passed to deter teams or individuals from doing the same mistake again, but this one does not serve any purpose.’ “A mere P15 000 for Rollers is nothing. Rollers is feared and a stiffer penalty could have served purpose. The judgment looked at the team and ignored the crime committed.
“It will be remiss of me if I don’t talk to the injustices given to Phuthego. There is inequality in our football. There is no logic in charging Rollers P15 000 and banning Phuthego for life, it is double standards”, charged George. He insists that the BFA has disrespected Phuthego and must apologise to him. “The decisions taken at BFA are personal and not objective.”
He observed that Rollers used a defaulter and accumulated 43 points using a player who was registered illegally while other teams abided by the law and were relegated to the lower league, “this is very unfair and we shouldn’t be proud of it.” “The onus is on the relegated teams to seek justice and demand fair judgment in this case” he opined.