Botswana’s growth in football is one of the most difficult to judge because of the inconsistency of the determining factors.
Some countries use the performance of their national teams to measure themselves against other nations. Others use the performance of their local clubs in regional competitions, or the number of players they are able to export to big established leagues.
Local football was nearly brought to its knees seven years ago when disgruntled community based teams complained of an uneven playing ground.
Big community teams like Township Rollers cried that they continued to make money for institutional teams, despite the fact that they receive subsidies from the government. They argued that they are made to share gate takings with teams like BDF XI even though such teams have no following. This issue was a hot potato that saw community teams resigning from the Botswana Football Association and forming their own body, the Botswana Soccer Association.
The formation of BOSA backed BFA into a corner and a consensus was reached that saw institutional teams reduced from the league whilst others were dispersed.
The move resulted in the death of Mahalapye Prisons XI, Continental Aces and the termination of funds accorded Mogoditshane Fighters by the Botswana Defence Force.
Subsequently Mogoditshane Fighters were relegated as some of their most influential players left the team.
The basis for BOSA’s argument was that government sponsored teams were not adding any value to local football, as their dominance meant that community-based teams found it hard to establish themselves to compete for the meagre resources provided by BFA.
But recent developments have thrown the progress of football seven years back as now the premiere league risks being comprised of seven institutional teams in the 2009/2010 season, almost 44 percent of the 16 teams in the league.
The promotion of Great North Tigers (GNT), a Botswana Police-sponsored team, to the elite league means they will be joining BDF XI, Police XI and the two Botswana Meat Commission sponsored teams, BMC FC and Ecco City Green.
The Botswana Football Association Chief Executive Officer, Mooketsi Tosh Kgotlele, however, downplayed this scenario saying he could not jump to conclusions.
Information reaching Sunday Standard Sports, however, shows the CEO as a concerned man.
Anonymous sources said Kgotlele had written a letter to the Botswana Police reminding them of an agreement that was made. Kgotlele is reported to be concerned that GNT is a police-sponsored team.
He confirmed writing a letter, but said he could not discuss issues that are not yet ready for public consumption.
“Yes I wrote a letter to invite everybody concerned to a meeting where we can sit down and deliberate on issues affecting our football,” Kgotlele said.
He said he wanted the meeting to be discussed in a friendly atmosphere.
“Sometimes you have to protect the concerned parties,” he told Sunday Sports.
Though Kgotlele chose ignorance over logic, chances are GNT may remain in the league and a community based team like Naughty Boys might get relegated.
Chances are Prisons XI and Tasc Confidence might come back to top flight football to join the five institutional teams.
Township Rollers Public Relations Officer, Molatlhegi Mangole, was emotional when he spoke about the issue.
According to Mangole, the BFA is not doing enough to protect the interests of community-based teams which are operating with a very small budget, and generating minimal income which they are forced to share with teams that have nothing to loose.
“Don’t ask me if we are heading back to the BOSA era. We are already there, and it is so painful because we are running at a loss,” said the emotional Mangole.
Mangole lamented to Sunday Sports that these institutional teams have got playing grounds that have been developed with government money but are refusing to lend them to other teams for use.
“They only release their stadiums when it’s convenient for them,” Mangole said.
Kitso Dlamini of Gaborone United also said the growing number of institutional teams is a cause for concern.
Dlamini fell short of saying football has gone back to the BOSA era, but he, however, said the agreement was that there would only be three institutional teams in the league.
“The agreement was that there will be only one team from each institution but, currently, we have two army sides, two police sides and two Meat Commission sides,” Dlamini told Sunday Sports.
Dlamini said some institutional teams hide behind small community-based teams in the pretext that they are not government sponsored.
He gave an example of Tasc Football Club, which claims to be a community-based team even though they still receive assistance from the army.
The Gaborone United PRO said the situation is a stumbling block in the country’s ambition of turning its football professional in two years.
David Fani was the man at the helm of the BFA during the BOSA era, and he has been tipped to take over from Phillip Makgalemele and once again run football in the country.
Let him be warned that he might once again find himself face to face with BOSA’s ghost that was buried years ago!