Thursday, October 28, 2021

BFA and Government play hide and seek with FIFA

“If you want to understand a child, you must love and not condemn him. You must play with him, watch his movements, his idiosyncrasies, his ways of behavior; but if you merely condemn, resist or blame him, there is no comprehension of the child,” J Krishnamurti.

As the misunderstanding between the Botswana government, Botswana Football Association (BFA) and the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) over the constituency league continues to unravel, many a football fan have been left in confusion as to what is really happening to local football.
After keeping quiet for a long time over the issue, the government has, through the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Shaw Kgathi, finally broken its silence.

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Kgathi pointed an accusing finger at the BFA for what he termed ‘deliberately misleading FIFA into believing that the government was running a parallel league and thereafter concluding that this is interference with the formal registered clubs within the BFA structures’.

Kgathi says the issue first reared its head when the constituency tournament was introduced in July 2008.

“The BFA raised concerns and reservations that the tournaments were in contravention of FIFA statutes. The Government requested the BFA to favour it with copies of the FIFA statutes, which were allegedly being violated due to the introduction of the constituency tournaments, which is a community based sport and not a parallel league as the BFA alleged in their letter to FIFA on 15 December 2008,” Kgathi told the media.

He told the press gathering that the government then put in place mechanisms to facilitate dialogue with the BFA and Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) to see how the tournament can be played without interfering with the existing BFA leagues. He says the BFA was further requested to present a document on how best the tournaments can be implemented but all in vain.

He says instead, the BFA proposed that they run the tournaments even though the government knew they don’t have the capacity. According to Kgathi, it turned out that while their engagements with BFA continued, the latter had at the same time reported the matter to FIFA in a letter dated 15th December 2008.

The minister further told the media that the manner in which the December letter was written was a clear misrepresentation of the government position and that of the BFA.

Kgathi says this was clearly stated by the BFA president in his letter dated 8th September 2010 that “the Chief Executive Officer did not write the letter himself but delegated the responsibility to the marketing and communications officer whose choice of language did not accurately reflect the BFA council’s views. For this, BFA is regretful”.

If the minister had wanted to lay the issue to rest, his media briefing has only added to the already existing confusion.

Trying to figure out the puzzle is even made difficult by the sometimes seemingly contradictory statements issued by the BFA.

Addressing the press conference, BFA vice president Administration, Boyce Sebetlela, apologized for the misrepresentation. He says all the BFA was trying to request from FIFA was clarity on issues regarding the running of constituency tournament after their lower division league structures had reported that they are losing players to the constituency league as there is also the fight for playing grounds and officials.

Asked whether the loss of players, officials and fighting for grounds did not interfere with the league structures, the evasive Sebetlela answered in the negative, saying all there is is competition.

In another interview with Standard Sport later, Sebetlela reiterated his stance that there is no interference.

He, however, says the BFA was well within its right to request clarity from FIFA, adding that all they ‘regret is the tone of the letter ‘.

On why it was him who came to address the media with the minister while he has barely less than two months in office, Sebetlela said he was acting on behalf of the BFA president who was supposedly ‘out of the country’.

He said it was well within his scope of duties as the BFA vice president to do as such.
Sebetlela says despite being in office for such a short time, he has read documents regarding the issue and is well aware of the issue.

This, however, seemed self defeating as the BFA Acting CEO, Susan Monametsi, who had been present during the whole saga, did not utter a word during the press conference.

While the issue continues, unconfirmed reports say there is mounting pressure on the BFA president David Fani to issue a public apology, something which he is said to be unwilling to do.

While some say it may partly be to his fear of losing his position at the upcoming BFA elections, some suggestions have been that the BFA president does not really believe anything wrong has been done by his association. Rumours making the rounds within the football fraternity say with the President having already threatened to cut all football sponsorship, it may only be possible that the BFA has been backed into a tight corner out of which they cannot get out.

But whatever happens, it is the hope of football fans that the two parties resolve their differences amicably for the sake of local football.

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