Botswana Football Association (BFA)’s dream to have a world class football academy will soon turn in to a reality. This follows Botswana government’s agreement to avail a piece of land adjacent to Lekidi to the association to build a multimillion pula football academy.
According to the BFA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mfolo Mfolo, the government has granted permission to the association to develop the said piece of land.
The provision of land caps months of negotiations between the BFA and the government, through the Ministry of Sports and Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC).
“At the moment, we are just waiting for the Attorney General to finish checking the lease of agreement before we can put pen to paper. Thereafter, the real work of building will resume,” Mfolo explained.
The project, which is now at the core of the Maclean Letshwiti led BFA’s football development plan, is the brainchild of billionaire financier and industrialist James Ratcliffe, who will wholly finance the project through his INEOS Chemical Company.
Speaking in an interview, Mfolo said despite being given only 7 hectares of the 10 hectares land they had requested, the association, along with its financiers are happy with the outcome of the negotiations.
“While we had wished for a bigger piece of land, we however had to compromise and we are happy with the outcome. Our financiers have been apprised of this development and they are also happy,” the BFA CEO explained.
To accommodate a change in the size of land they had initially requested, Mfolo said there will be some alterations on the initial plans of the academy.
“As you may be aware, initially, we had planned to have single storey apartments but due to the size of land now available, we will have to build high-rise apartments. These changes will be reflected and seen in the final plans,” he said.
Aside from the expected changes in apartment buildings, the BFA CEO said not many changes are expected from the initial plans.
“This will be a massive project with potential to create employment for locals and will greatly benefit our football,” he explained.
Among other things, the academy will include three (3) full size top of the range FIFA approved turf fields, four (4) artificial turf five-a-side fields as well as an indoor training facility.
Other developments will include accommodation facility for up to 80 people, high tech media centre that can seat 80 people, restaurant for academy players and public meals, a fully equipped gym as well as onsite medical services.
According to Mfolo, INEOS is willing to spend a minimum US$12 million (an equivalent of +/-P120 million) on the project.
Mfolo said for the BFA, the erection and running of the INEOS academy is a cost free project which will massively benefit the country and give local youngsters a shot at making it into the European football markets.
“INEOS has a similar project in Switzerland and this project will be a conduit for excelling young footballers to make it in Europe. Under the agreement, young excelling footballers from the Botswana INEOS academy will be taken to Lausanne, Switzerland to complete a further two years of academy training and education,” he explained.
“We are very optimistic as the BFA that this development will help us close the gap between us and the rest of the world. Having visited and seen some of the facilities in Europe, I can state that the facility we will have here will be on par or at times better that those in Europe,” he gushed. “This can only bode well for the country,” he added.
Once the building of the academy is complete, the agreement is that it will be entirely run by INEOS, who will bring in experts to carry out the football development process.
“We have however agreed that Batswana will be employed in the academy as understudies to the experts as a way to transfer skills to locals. It will also provide medical students and physical education students with an opportunity to do their internships at the academy, which will contribute immensely to sports science,” he concluded.