Like Rome in July of 64AD, Lobatse based outfit Extension Gunners are on flames, and conspiracy theories are making rounds as to who has set them on fire.
When the team started burning, just like Roman Emperor Nero who was 35 miles away at his villa at Antium, Babitseng was away in Gaborone, 70 kilometres away from the team base in Lobatse.
But that he was away has not stopped critics from pointing an accusing finger at Babitseng for setting Gunners on fire.
On the other side of the coin however, sources say at least four other individuals opposing Babitseng (names known to this publication), are to blame for stoking the flames engulfing Gunners
The current flame at Gunners started this past Monday 16th of September, when rumours started making rounds that the team had boycotted training.
It was not long after on the same day that a letter, purportedly written by the players, expressing their loss of confidence in Babitseng’s leadership, started making rounds in social media circles.
In the letter, which is referenced ‘Vote of no confidence for Extension Gunners FC Chairman Mr Tariq Babitseng,’ players expressed what they termed ‘dissatisfaction with the current chairman of the club.’
“Since last season we have had concerns regarding Mr Babitseng’s leadership specifically regarding trust, collaboration, decision making, vision lack of respect for us as players, staff and the fans and communication,” ‘the players’ wrote.
Curiously, the letter comes in the backdrop of yet another one which was purportedly written by concerned supporters a fortnight ago, which almost echoed the same sentiments.
While the surfacing of the two letters adds more pressure on Babitseng, it has also raised questions as to who could be fanning the flames of discontent at Gunners, with as many questioning whether the players did indeed write the recent letter.
“What is interesting about this letter is that 90 percent of Gunners’ current players are new to the team. At most, they have played just two games for the team,” a source opined.
“It is interesting that players who were not even part of the team last season can come out to write that they have had concerns about Babitseng’s leadership since last season. It raises questions whether this was indeed players who wrote the letter,” said the source.
The source went on to point that this was part of a well orchestrated plan by some forces at Botswana Football Association (BFA) and within Gunners to destabilise the team in order to get rid of Babitseng.
Reacting to questions on the players’ letter, Babitseng alleged there were sinister forces working behind the scenes to create chaos.
“Can an employee do that?” Babitseng asked rhetorically when questioned. “These players are misguided. They are being used,” he alleged.
“The majority of the players are new and they are talking about last year staff?” he shot back.
While accepting that the buck stops with him at Gunners, Babitseng however said it is surprising that he seems to be the only target for the ire of the players and supporters.
Commenting on the matter, football writer and commentator City Keagakwa opined that there may be political forces behind the players’ letter.
“First and foremost, if you look at the wording of the letter, the players talk of ‘a vote of no confidence.’ This is synonymous with politics,” he opines.
“We have to acknowledge that indeed Gunners have problems, but the way the letter was written raises doubt that it was written by the players. The questions should now be who wrote the letter or influenced the players?” Keagakwa says.
Going forward, he says should the forces behind the letter win and push Babitseng through using player power, it would set a dangerous precedent for the team.
“If the players get to know they can determine what should happen at board level or even push off the executive committee when they want, they will then do it time and again if they feel aggrieved. They will control the team and the executive,” he says.
Keagakwa says should Babitseng go because of player power, the team will become unstable as players will call the shots even when it comes to the hiring and firing of coaches and the team’s executive.
While not convinced the departure of Babitseng would distinguish the flames engulfing Gunners, he however says it may be a good idea for him to step down.
“Would Babitseng’s departure solve Gunners’ problems? Very unlikely. We have to remember that he and his committee inherited a club already in debt. When they arrived, the club was already having its payments seized even before reaching the club coffers to pay outstanding debts which were not of their making,” he explains.
He however says given how far the forces against him seem determined to go kick him out, it may be a good idea for Babitseng to jump ship for the sake of saving Gunners.
Keagakwa’s sentiments were echoed by veteran sports journalist Tshepo Molwane. “Whatever is happening at Gunners is the product of internal politics within the team,” he opines.
He says while Babitseng has his flaws, his main challenge is that he is viewed as an outsider by a certain cabal which believes it has ‘a birthright to run Gunners.’
“If you look at the letter which was purportedly written by the players to Babitseng, you will realise it was not written by players. They (players) are just being used by some forces to kick Babitseng out,” he says.
“Of the players who were at Gunners last season, only nine (9) survived and are in the current team. If you look at the letter about players’ concerns from last season, you will notice new players having signed the letter first. Why?” asked Molwane.
“If at all this was about players concerns from last season, 90% of the current squad would have not signed the letter,” he adds.
He says a closer analysis of the letter indicates it was written elsewhere and then given to players to sign.
Molwane says if the forces behind the players’ letter win, it will set a bad precedent whereby players would believe they have control of the team.
“Suppose the players force him (Babitseng) to step down, it be today, tomorrow or anytime in future, and the person behind the letter takes over, then what? Will the players not do it again? They will. Whoever is behind this is setting a wrong precedent,” he says.
Molwane says just as with Mochudi Centre Chiefs, if the Gunners faithful do not put an end to the team’s internal squabbles, it will eventually relegate.
“And if they do relegate, I fear the team will not recover and will struggle to come back to the elite league,” he concludes.