Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Adios Amigo…as I bolt out

It all started with what was to be a walk down the memory lane in solidarity with Moroka Swallows who had endured a free fall from the very top to the very bottom of the South African soccer ladder.

What was to be a once-off contribution turned out to be a semi-permanent – if not permanent – residence status in the scribe zone.  

Thanks to one Eddie Kuhlmann, (May his Soul Rest in eternal Peace) a delinquent yet ever-so-loving kasi brother of mine, who even threatened to beat me up should I resist his calls for continued contributions.

I have since been somewhat of a permanent resident, albeit a reluctant one. When he passed on several months later, I somehow felt, rather than bow out in relief, I owed it to him to continue.

Now, just when Swallows have flown back into the PSL nest, I have no better excuse to finally bolt out. As I do so, I congratulate them and all those who made it possible for them to work their way back into the PSL.  

I pay tribute to Eddie Kuhlmann, in his deep sleep, and pray that he pardons me for exiting the stage that he had fought so hard to prepare for me. May his beautiful soul continue to rest in eternal peace.

During my occupation of this space, I have tried from my angle to discuss several topical issues. Most of my focus was on football, largely camping at Lekidi (I suppose to their discomfort) on issues surrounding football politics and, at times, the Zebras – the once mighty Zebras. I at times discussed what I thought were administrative lapses in the running of our football, proposing here and there how the situation could be best addressed, in the process earning as many friends as I did foes.

On occasions I discussed clubs, making my own observations on them and sharing an opinion or two on how their situations could be made better. For the better part, I camped at Gaborone United, Extension Gunners and Mochudi Centre Chiefs; three clubs which, in my view, were performing far below their potential. I have also taken a direct shot at BDF XI, aka ‘Matebele a Mantshonyana’, wondering where it all went well wrong for them after a rosy start under the likes of Bra Tizzah Sekgaphane, Dick Chama, Six Keatlholetswe, David Bright and Stan Tshosane. I shared my thoughts on how they could best move forward. I was happy to note a turnaround at GU, with the club closing the gap on the elites in the second half of the just-ended season and finally looking the part on the home straight. I also paid occasional visits to Township Rollers, for good reasons, citing the club as a model of others to follow. I have also made mention of Jwaneng Galaxy and Orapa United as other examples that could be followed. Others would have been mentioned as incidentals, prompted by an issue or two.

I have also made my observations in the coaching field, discussing anything from national teams to club coaches, touching anything from Peter Butler, Bright, Mogomotsi Mpote, Adel Amrouche and others on the range such as Tshosane, Daniel Nare, Bongani Mafu, Boyo Oris Radipotsane and such others, crossing over to football development where I could not do without the mention of Matshediso Kowa and Kgosi Spokes Gaborone, among others.

Most exciting for me were tributes that I paid to some individuals who, in my view, were worthy singling out for whatever reason. At the sad moment of the passing on of our second statesman, His Excellency Sir Quett Ketumile Joni Masire, ‘E khukhwa e e Mangole a Ditshipi’, a long-time patron of the BNOC, I paid him a befitting tribute, recognising him as the president under whom Botswana won her first All Africa Games and Commonwealth medals.

When President Ian Khama stepped down in 2018, I thanked him for his contribution to Botswana sport and welcomed President Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi, whose contribution to Botswana sport is already being positively felt. I did the same thing when Honourable Tshekedi Khama stepped in as the new minister of youth empowerment, sport and culture development, taking over from Thapelo Olopeng and also when our current minister Tumiso Rakgare replaced Tshekedi Khama. I predicted an even brighter future for our sport. Early indications are quite assuring with, among others, his swift management of the BNSC-BNOC relationship. I also welcomed Buti Billy as Rakgare’s assistant. Way back Minister Olopeng had announced government’s plans to develop 10 mini-stadiums around the country, a project aggressively pursued by Rakgare. From the very onset, I went against the tide to support this initiative when some sports insiders were rejecting it.

In the same space, I have recognised other individuals who have made contributions to Botswana sport in whatever small way. Among those singled out were old man Dickson Gabanakgosi and his ‘world without end’; an individual whose behind-the-seasons manoeuvres in the field of sport would not be known to many, even in his retirement. I also recognised Negroes Kgosietsile when, after 16 long years of service he stepped down as the BNOC president, thanking him for his devoted service and also welcoming his replacement, Col. Botsang Tshenyego.

Down the line, the long serving, flamboyant, if not effervescent, Solly Reikeletseng stepped down from the BNSC chairpersonship for reasons personal, yet public in the other sense. I paid him a tribute. I wished him good luck in his future pursuits. I still do. I welcomed Marumo Zoff Morule, Reikeletseng’s replacement as BNSC chair.    

On the football front, I paid tribute to Thabo Ntshinogang, a perpetual tool for abuse in sport, never mind his extensive training and experience in that area; particularly in football management. I also allocated space to Segolame Ramothwa, the football people’s darling who never fails to live by his principles. I took time to pay a full tribute to him, although I at the same time accused him of failing to differentiate between doing the right things and doing things right. Sadly, it is the same principles that led to his demise.

I also took time to recognise the BFA CEO Mfolo Mfolo, whom I cautioned to fasten his seatbelt in the turbulent and thankless political world of football. I made mention of his predecessor Ookeditse Malesu, albeit in passing, who would always be remembered for likening the BFA to ‘a bus driven by a drunk driver’ at the time of disembarking.

I recognised an old friend, Sikalame ‘Six’ Keatlholetswe following his graduation with a Master’s degree in sports psychology, challenging the powers that be to find space for him in the national football structures. But who cares! Nobody listened. Instead we went to pick on a South African whose offerings during his stay in the country are hard to see.

On occasions I have delved into the boxing space, making a special plea to one Keith Khupe Buthongo, the once slippery south paw in Botswana boxing, to assist national boxing and also paying tribute to Bra Norman Pangaman Sekgapane.  

I have also delved into international football, discussing incremental changes in football that were being introduced at global level over the years, particularly making my feelings known on the introduction of video assistant referees. Well, the video assistant referee system is now a part of the big stages of world football, including the world cup, and I suppose football lovers have their opinion on whether it was a great invention or not. I also made my feelings known about the lowering of the bar by FIFA through increasing the number of teams at the world cup from 32 to 40 for the 2022 world cup, with President Gianni Infantino proposing a further increase to 48 for the 2026 world cup; even before the latest increase could be put to test.

Once the 2018 world cup had started, I camped there, sharing my views on some contentious issues arising at the tournament and also my delights, culminating in my own selection of the World XI post-the tournament; which selection was corroborated by experts.  

Typical of me, I more often than not, dwelled on history, citing nostalgic moments that resonated with my passion for football and sport in general, some of which were archival material.

I have also stretched my neck into development matters, opening a debate on the various developmental league models in quest to figure out the best model for us as a country, at the same time recognising institutional codes for their role in sports development in Botswana.

I took issue with some insinuations suggesting that all those who have been in football prior to the current administration had been useless. I disparaged all suggestions to the effect that all past BFA presidents have made no contribution whatsoever to Botswana football. On the contrary, I noted several unprecedented negative developments in our football, like annual general meetings going without financial reports.

I have also taken issue with dwindling crowds at our stadiums, especially in the last four years, illustrating this through past statistics that clearly dwarf the latest figures, if there are any.  

Notwithstanding, I have noted the coming in of Choppies to aid football development and, later in the year, the coming in of FNB to aid the process even further. I have also positively noted the coming in of Orange to aid the resuscitation of the FA cup. Of course I took issue with the demise of the Charity Cup on its first comeback attempt and the sharp reduction of the BPL sponsorship in the past season. I also lamented all other absurdities that sometimes creep into our football.

I have taken the liberty to visit the BFA 2017-2020 strategy, noting its good intensions, but arguing that not much has been achieved against it.

I also visited and spent time with referees, recalling all the exciting moments I have experienced with some of them down there ko leroling and up there in the professional ranks, even in international football. I paid tribute to Joshua Bondo, our ace referee, who continues to earn respect in Africa.

I bow out at a time when the new BFA elections date is still be announced after COVID-19 forced postponements. I have shared a few thoughts on this subject and cautioned the electorate, as I still do, not to make any choices that they would regret as has always seemed to be the case.

If at all in this our journey I had appeared to take a shot at any individual or groups of individuals, it would simply be because they were in the shooting range at the time I had a loaded gun in my hands, pointing in their direction. My emotions, wherever they showed, were a true reflection of my feelings. I thank all my readers, happy and unhappy, for following this column throughout its life. Of course I still have a lot to share in the world of sport, but unfortunately have to call it quits to answer to other calls of life.

I leave at a time when my memoirs are almost ready for publication, where readers can amuse or agonise at my journey in Botswana sport up to this point.  

As I exit, I love you all. Till we meet again on the other side of things. Adios amigo! King Kaizer.

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