Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Fifa warns Botswana over constituency tournaments

A delegation of the world football governing body, Fifa, which was in Gaborone this past week, has warned both Botswana Football Association (BFA) and the government to put their house in order in the best interest of the sport.

The Fifa delegation was on a three day visit to Botswana on a mission to review the situation with regard to constituency football. The tournament was introduced by the government of Botswana almost four years ago as a way of keeping the youth off the streets. Though the delegation, which was led by Fifa senior manager James Johnson, was loath to reveal their findings, those close to the probe have revealed that the football controlling body is taking the matter seriously.

“Some people within the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture and BFA are taking this matter lightly, but the implications might be severe. The fact that Fifa decided to send a delegation to investigate should serve as a serious warning that this is not a laughing matter,” said a source.

Since it was introduced, the constituency football tournament has caused uproar within the football fraternity with some arguing that the tournament is interfering with BFA structures. Some of the players who were playing under BFA leagues dumped their clubs for constituency football. The issue became a hot potato and at some stage there were rumors that the BFA would likely face sanctions from Fifa.

Journalists raised the issue again during Fifa President Sepp Blatter’s visit to Gaborone in January. The world governing body then decided to send a delegation to Botswana to investigate the matter. The delegation met with all the stakeholders including acting Minister of Sport Vincent Seretse, the BFA national executive and some regional representatives. While they said they were satisfied with their findings, the Fifa delegation warned all concerned stakeholders to find common ground and resolve the matter.

“As Fifa we don’t care about government politics, what we care about is football development in the country. Fifa did not come with opinions because this matter has been on the radar for some time. But we have several principles that each of our 209 members have to abide with,” said Johnson during a media briefing hosted by the delegation at BFA headquarters in Gaborone on Friday morning.

Johnson pointed out that it is important for the member associations to develop and control football in their own countries. He explained that they only get involved if any other football structure tries to run matters parallel to Fifa’s member associations.

“All football activities must be done under the Fifa pyramid. At the moment we are not saying constituency football is run outside that pyramid because a decision will be taken in the Fifa headquarters in Zurich,” said Johnson.

For his part, Fifa Development Officer for South and East Africa, Ashford Mamelodi, advised BFA and government to put their heads together to find a solution. He said as much as they would like to see football being played in every corner of Botswana, it has to be played under the Fifa pyramid.
“It is important for our member associations to be in control of football. The football leaders we met with to deliberate on the matter related well. We have a very good picture of what is happening,” said Mamelodi.

BFA president Tebogo Sebego said he is hopeful that after their discussions with Fifa, football will be the winner at the end of the day. He said the BFA is doing everything possible to protect the game in the country. The Fifa delegation left the country on Friday afternoon and Batswana are waiting with bated breath to hear Fifa’s final word.

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