Monday, September 21, 2020

Botswana football heading for the worst

Where is the money from their sponsor from last season and from the record breaking attendances?

It has since been proved around the African continent that national teams cannot do well if the domestic league is weak.

Those domestic leagues that are very strong are also proven by their clubs in the African continent.
When clubs do well, it automatically means their national teams also perform heroically because they are fed with tried and tested players. For instance Egypt are ruling the roost of African soccer mainly because their local clubs are also untouchable in club African competitions.

Clubs like Al Ahgly and Zamalek are the prominent ones. Even some North African countries like Morocco and Tunisia are a force to reckon with, mainly because of the strength from their clubs.
Southern Africa is nowhere near because the teams either get knocked out early or do not participate at all, despite the chance they might have.

When for the first time a southern African country, South Africa, won the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 1996, it had strong support structures at club level. The year before the historic achievement, local club, Orlando Pirates, had won Club African Championships also for the first time for a southern African country. The only other southern African club that came near before Pirates was Zambian side, Power Dynamos in the early nineties. At that time, Zambia also had a very strong team.

In Botswana, the only side that won two or more games in the preliminary stages are still Notwane and Township Rollers.
Despite high odds against them, they fought gallantly against powerful clubs in the region.

Clubs like Premiero-De Agosto of Angola and Zambian Zesco United come to mind.
Now it has since been almost three years without a single local club featuring in African Club competitions. With such kind of non-participation that now seems to be a norm, Botswana’s national team, the Zebras, is under serious threat. And if no drastic measures are put in place, Botswana will continue to chase the shadows of almost all countries in the world.
Last season, BMC and Ecco made it clear that they were not participating. This season it is Mochudi Center Chiefs and Gaborone United that have followed suit.

But the team that surprised the most is Center Chiefs, before they won the local league championships, made numerous promises to Batswana.
They signed many big names and even went on record saying they were going to conquer the African continent with the backing of their sponsor Motiganz. They even said they needed depth to sustain them in the many forthcoming competitions.

So now Batswana learned with shock that the Mochudi outfit would not be participating in continental competitions.

The Botswana Football Association (BFA), head of the technical department, Losika Keatlholetswe, was at pains when pressed for a comment on the matter.

Keatlholetswe made it clear that what is happening with the local teams will not take local soccer anywhere. He further regretted Center Chiefs’ decision because they are in possession of the country’s cream of players.
“Even a blind person can actually see the benefits of the clubs to the country by playing in the African continental championships. To be the best, you need to rub shoulders with the best and if this situation persists, as is the case now, our football will not go anywhere and we will continue to be knocked out at preliminary stages. Also participating in club competitions would be an ideal opportunity for players to market themselves. This is definitely uncalled for and strong measures should be taken,” he said.

Keatlholetswe wondered whether Center Chiefs approached the Botswana Football Association to seek help from the government through the Botswana National Sports Council. He revealed to Sunday Standard that the issue is also a challenge to the BFA.
“The issue should be evaluated carefully and see where the exact problem is,”

Efforts to contact the Chief Executive Officer of BFA, Mooketsi ‘Tosh’ Kgotlele, were futile at the time of going to press.

On the other hand, Mochudi Center Chiefs have made it clear that their focus this season is to defend their league championship title.

The club’s mouthpiece, Clifford Mogomotsi, told Sunday Standard that financial contracts are the main reasons they would not be participating in continental competitions.

“The credit crunch that is affecting the world has also impacted on us negatively. Motiganz promised to help us, but they have been hard hit. As you might be aware, they are diamond dealers and globally they are the worst hit because diamond sales have reached their all time low. This then means companies are prioritising and it is difficult for them to help us. We tried many other companies but we hit a snag and there was nothing we could do,” he said.

Mogomotsi would, however, not say whether they have approached the government for help, as was once the case with Rollers and Notwane.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.