The rise of the youthful Kitso Dlamini from being a publicity officer to the chairman of giants Extension Gunners was met by doubts from some quarters but in a short period of time he has proven to be what the doctor has ordered for the once ailing outfit.
It is less than a year since he took from one Ian Kebopetswe but things seem to be getting rosy for the fallen giants from the Peleng township on the eastern side of Lobatse town.
When he accepted the challenge of leading a movement as big as Gunners, Dlamini knew that it was never going to be an easy task.
He consulted a lot of people before taking over the hot seat especially the club’s elders.
“Gunners’ fans showed a lot of belief in my leadership qualities hence they asked me to take charge. They felt that I could add value to their club but I wasn’t sure if I could manage. Obviously I had to discuss it with my family and after some consultations they gave me their blessings. It was a tough decision to make considering that I have a lot of commitments outside football but for the love of football and Gunners I gave it a shot,” said a seemingly relaxed Dlamini while enjoying his lunch on a Friday afternoon. In between the interview, Dlamini apologised as he had to take calls from his executive members and other stakeholders.
“This is the kind of life I have chosen but it is for the love of football. I’m happy to have a supportive wife who knows that Gunners is in my blood,” he said.
He pointed out that leading Gunners comes with a lot of responsibility but he has received overwhelming support from businessmen Shabbry and Mahommed Ismail who are known to be longtime Gunners’ supporters.
“They know that I’m still young and I always consult them on a number of issues. They have been very supportive and I salute them for that. I also need to point out that my committee members have also been fantastic. As you are aware behind a good leader there are always members who work hard day and night,” said a humble Dlamini.
Even those who doubted Dlamini from the beginning are now singing nice tunes about the Khakhea-born chairman. They now believe he has the qualities of bringing back the glory days when Gunners used to mesmerize the opposition.
In Lobatse, Dlamini is described as young, brilliant, charming and brave leader.
“In every set-up, there are always people who will not accept change but it is my main mission to make Gunners’ family become a unit. If we achieve that as a committee, I will step from the chairman seat as a happy man,” he continued.
When Dlamini and his committee were brought in, they were tasked with attracting investors to the club. At the time, Gunners were struggling to make ends meet and at times players would go months without salaries. While they have not managed to land any big fish yet, he believes that the signs are there.
“We were fortunate that when we came in, Cassim Dada managed to come on board to assist the club financially. He has ensured that players are paid and we highly appreciate that. Cassim is the one who made me one of the best publicity officers in this country. Obviously he would not want to see me failing. It is good to have people like him close to the club,” he added.
Since he took over in July last year, Dlamini and his committee have managed to make deals with business community in Lobatse which have benefited the club. Cumberland Hotel has taken over the camping costs for the club when they play at home. Lobatse Clay Works have come on board to assist Mapantsola with transportation to all their league games.
“Convincing business community to come on board is not an easy thing to do but I’m grateful to both Cumberland Hotel and Lobatse Clay Works for the support they have given us. We don’t have to worry about transport nor camping facilities when playing at home,” said Gunners’ boss.
He pointed out that they are also in talks with Lobatse Town Council to see how they can be part of the club especially when playing at home. While they have been rumours that a number of businessmen have shown interest in investing on the club, Dlamini said that nothing has been finalized.
“A number of them have shown interest but obviously there are number of things which need to be taken into consideration before we make a final call. We don’t want to make mistakes like other clubs have done. My wish is that when we go to the AGM (in July) we should have something concrete to tell the general membership,” said Dlamini.
In recent times, Gunners have enjoyed massive support at their games something which was not heard of last season. Even the old supporters have come out of their shell to rally behind Mapantsola.
“When I started my role, I met with the supporters’ branches chairmen and shared my vision with them. I must say that they have been very supportive and I must congratulate them for that. It is good to see the team winning because when we do, people tend to forget the past.” he said.
Unfortunately on the supporters’ front, last weekend there was violence when Gunners hosted Gaborone United at Lobatse Stadium. A number of supporters were injured and this forced Botswana Premier League to take Gunners’ home game against Township Rollers to a neutral venue in Selebi Phikwe on Good Friday.
“Our supporters need to learn from what happened against GU. We need to be tolerant and go to the stadium to cheer on the players but not to fight. What happened there was just a security glitch and in future we will ensure that the safety of fans comes first,” he concluded.
Gunners complete the 2013/14 Premier League season when they visit Nico United away in Selebi-Phikwe on April 26.