Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Botswana Football … A game within a game

Once upon a time football used to be a simple game.

Whether you win, draw or lose, the idea, from youth to elite, was play a match, have fun and entertain the spectators. Fast forward to the present, football is now a big business that generates big money and great influence.

And just like a coin football unfortunately has two sides; the good and the dark. Unfortunately, Botswana seems to be diving more into the latter. It is now all about money, power, politics and all about business and less about the actual game itself.

To borrow from the words of Dominic Hobson in an article titled ‘Dark side of sport,’ “Sport is war – it is about the loss, as well as the gain. Sport is war minus the shooting. Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence… It’s rich in triumphalism, disdain and pride, in the love of power and of domination. Sport has something in common with war.”

This is the state of Botswana football. It is in ‘war and disarray’ with the guns now turned on the Botswana Football Association (BFA). The leadership stands accused of dragging down the once thriving game local game.

Among other things, BFA stands accused of failing to find sponsors for the local game, fiddling with the constitution, chopping down on premier league clubs and halting the game. At the extreme end, the BFA National Executive Committee (NEC) is accused of running shady dealings under the shroud of their positions, misuse of funds, power and the list goes on.

In all this, the plot now centres around the fall out between the BFA President, Maclean Letshwiti and his former ally now turned fierce critic Nicholas Zakhem. The fallout between the two has triggered more problems for the current BFA regime. On the other hand, the resignation of Botswana Football League (BFL) Board Chairman Aryl Ralebala has also fuelled more concerns into the administration of the association.

According to a source, the state of football and its dealings in Botswana is saddening. The source says just like its neighbours Lesotho and Swaziland, who cannot seem to go anywhere with football or better yet raise their heads above their situation, Botswana might be headed there if nothing is done to stop the greediness in local game.

“BFA should be one with football clubs but we are not seeing that happen. Clubs are not making any input on the running’s of the association and this is where the problem is,” the source said.

“In all honestly, we need somebody in Botswana who can be bold enough to say ‘A re phatlhalatse maragaraga a leng teng’ and with the help of FIFA we can find ways to put clubs back into the position of having a say in the dealings of the association,” the source said.

The source, who commented on condition of anonymity went on to say the current BFA regime led by Letshwiti has hit rock bottom and they may have the embarrassing honour of being ‘the worst to run the association.’

“We need the government’s interference to do away with everyone in the association and ask FIFA to do a normalization committee. With the biggest mandate being to fix the electoral process in order for the clubs who are the owners of the association to play a critical role in the association and also the league,” he stated.

Adding that, this will also help BFA to focus on its mandate which is football development, administrators’ development, finances, medical to name but a few.

“If we do this as soon as possible in a period of five years we could actually save Botswana football and just maybe stop the people who use it to source funds for their livelihood. The people running our football do not care about players or even the condition of the sport; their care is in their pockets,” the source says.

Commenting on the matter, football analyst, Kagiso Kgaogano says the state of football has been rotting for so long and being ignored because football people use it to push their interests and fight their individual differences.

“It will take time to get back to glory days and we can only try get back if all the relevant players introspect and see the bigger picture,” he says.

He furthermore says the onus of fixing the game lies not only with Letshwiti, but with everyone who proclaims to love the game.

“All the Football problems are made by the so-called football people. Even if we can bring in FIFA president Gianni Infantino to fix local football, with the current mentality of our people, the ground will remain the same,” he concludes.


Read this week's paper