Sports Minister Tumiso Rakgare last week served women football a double dose of heartbreak. The minister did not only omit women football from his COVID-19 beneficiaries, but he also acted like they do not exist.
Curiously, in his announcement of the relief funds for football, Sports Minister Tumiso Rakgare used the failure of women under 17 national team to honour a return leg game against Morocco as an example of how badly football was hit by the pandemic. Ironically, when announcing the relief funds allocation, the youthful minister suffered a senior moment and forgot to include women football in the list of beneficiaries.
According to one local coach, while the omission hurt, it was the Minister’s denial that ‘he did not know the women’s league were playing’ or that ‘there was women football’ that hurt them the most.
“Just a while back, he was attending a women national team match. As a sports minister and former sports journalist where does he think those players came from?,” the aggrieved coach remarked.
The coach is not alone. Kweneng Women’s football league committee chairperson Nonofo Latiwa says he was disappointed that the Minister is not taking women football seriously.
“It is disheartening that we are neglected during these trying times. In Kweneng, we have been active for the past four seasons and we are affiliated to the Botswana Football Association,” he explained.
“I do not think there is anyone out there who can plainly say they do not know any women teams that are playing in the league,” Latiwa added.
Latiwa added that while they have received food hampers from BFA, they are more worried about how they will cope when the football season resumes as they have no money.
“All our teams rely entirely on the founders who are hit financially by the pandemic and it is not going to be easy to start playing. Honestly, if we do not get any financial assistance, I do not expect all my teams to come back to finish this season’s games.”
“With the issue of getting loans from BFA, I do not think it applies to women football, only male league players. Women football teams do not generate any income and they have no sponsor for teams or leagues. I wonder how we would repay the loans anyways,” opined Latiwa.
Commenting on the matter, Mexican Girls coach Oaitse Moeti posted expressed his disappointment with Rakgare for his remarks.
“He talks about women national teams that were affected by the pandemic. Those players are from teams that play leagues here in Botswana, and he is well aware of that since he has been a sports journalist himself,” said Moeti.
The Mexican Girls coach told Sunday Standard Sports that ‘there is a problem if the government does not recognize the existence of women football in the country.’
“It seems like our structures do not recognize us. This is a serious problem, our struggles are going unheard,” said Moeti.
“We do not have professional players and sponsors for the league but it could all change if we were given support. I must add that we are more affected by this pandemic than our male counterparts.”
“We are waiting for BFA’s position , then we will take it from there. There are measures we can take. As an example, we can tell them never to call our players for national duties, since we are the ones who groom them without their assistance,” he concluded.