After years of keeping a safe distance, big money has started warming up to football and things seemed to be humming along until the BMC saga spoiled the party
For a long time businessmen and Botswana football could not be mentioned in the same breath, except when saying Botswana football is not attractive to businessmen. Then it all changed. Businessman flush with money decided to invest in Premier League teams and players started rubbing their hands gleefully in anticipation of a big pay day. Football lovers were optimistic that they would live to see the local sport turning professional. Pessimists however doubted if the newfound love between football and money would last beyond the courtship.
Zak Construction’s Nicholas Zakhem was something of a storm trooper when he decided to buck the investment trend in Botswana and put his money in football. His marriage with Gaborone United had all the hallmarks of happily-ever-after and this seemed like the much needed come hither for other investors to court local football teams.
It was not long before another suitor came along and Mochudi Centre Chiefs got hitched. The union has been blissful so far.
Township Rollers however was not so lucky and the parties to the union were already fighting before the honeymoon period was over. Disgruntled Rollers’ supporters have taken the club’s directors to court contesting the manner in which the handover was done. The Rollers’ case was brought before court for the first time Monday morning.
When reports came out in June that another businessman was showing interest in taking over BMC Football Club especially that the club is no longer owned by BMC the company, fans were relieved that the Rollers saga had not turned off business. It was a relief that the young marriage between football and money was still on a strong footing.
The BMC takeover would inject the much needed cash in the running of the Lobatse-based club under businessman Daroush Ghodrati. The Ghodratis had a plan which would resolve most of Ezinkomo’s problems. Some months later, it emerged that some committee members led by chairman Sonny Phiri are contesting the takeover of the club by Ghodrati. Initially the issue did not seem anything more than a boardroom head butting behind closed door. The issue exploded into a public spat last weekend as the battle for the control of the team moved from the boardroom into the playing pitch ÔÇô literally.
BMC were fixture to play their opening 2012/13 Be MOBILE Premier League game against Motlakase Saturday afternoon in Palapye. For a moment, supporters who packed the Swallows Ground thought they were seeing double as two BMC teams took to the ground to take on Motlakase. One BMC was under the Ghodratis while the other was under Sonny Phiri.
In the match-sheets presented during the pre-match meeting, six players appeared on either side of the BMC battle with same jersey numbers. More than 45 minutes into the scheduled kick off time, it became clear that the dispute which could not solved in months of boardroom jaw-jaw was never going to be resolved in a few minutes argument along the football pitch touch-line. Referee Tirelo Mositwane called off the match 50 minutes after the scheduled kick off time. On Tuesday, Botswana Football Association (BFA) executive took a decision that the Premier League should suspend BMC’s games for 14 days in order to allow the two warring parties to come up with a solution. This has seen BMC’s games against Township Rollers, Gaborone United and Mochudi Centre Chiefs being stayed pending the solution. According to sources, the Botswana Premier League (BPL) wanted to expel BMC from their activities but BFA advised them against the decision. The BMC issue has drawn mixed reactions from certain football commentators. Efforts to get hold of chief mediator Monty Robert drew a blank as his phones were off. Radio Botswana sports presenter Tiroyaone Lepotokisi is of an opinion that the 14 days which have been given to BMC officials to sort out their mess would not make any difference. “This matter has been going on for a long time and it seems nobody wants to compromise for the sake of football. I think BFA should have come on as mediators in this matter rather giving the officials time to re-negotiate. The BMC case goes to show that BFA is not close to its members because they (BFA) could have long acted when it became clear that there is a problem,” said Lepotokisi. He pointed out that if after 14 days BMC have not solved the issue, they should be expelled from BFA activities. “We cannot have people holding the league at ransom. We have seen BFA expelling clubs in the past and no special treatment should be given to BMC,” he added. Duma fm sports anchor Tumiso Rakgare is disappointed by what transpired in Palapye and labeled Botswana football as a joke. He said that BMC issue is going to mess up the Premier League programme and noted that players are suffering because some people want to settle personal scores. “BMC (the company) has messed up things from the beginning by dissolving BMC FC committee because they have no business in doing so. BMC FC committee is elected by the general membership and they are the ones who can dissolve the committee. At the same time I blame the club’s chairman Sonny Phiri and his allies because they always say they are funding the team from their own pockets. Now an investor comes on board but they don’t want them. Most of our football administrators are corrupt because if they had nothing to lose in Ghodratis taking over at BMC, we won’t be in this situation,” said Rakgare. BMC’s next scheduled league game is against newly-promoted Orapa United at the Itekeng Stadium on October 5. It remains to be seen if the warring parties would have solved the saga. Both Botswana Premier League secretariat and BFA leadership have decided not to comment on the matter to allow both parties time to come up with a solution.