Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Football hits stump along the BFA way

Botswana Football Association (BFA) National Executive Committee (NEC)’s decision to end the football league season continues to receive a backlash from football followers. 

The BFA leadership is blamed for among others its ‘indecisiveness in coming up with modalities for resumption of football competitions.’ 

Following the declaration of coronavirus as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the BFA on the 12th March early this year took a bold decision to suspend all footballing activities.

At the time, the BFA had made it known that the suspension was to last until 10th April.

With the virus seemingly not subsiding, the BFA NEC sometimes in June ‘unanimously agreed to end the football season.’

The decision was not well received within the local football circles as many believed it was premature.

Surprisingly, despite declaring an ‘end to the football season,’ the association has now released a statement that ‘the promotional playoffs and Orange FA cup competitions will be played.’

In the statement, the association declared “that the promotional playoffs and Orange FA Cup remaining games will be played when football activities resume in compliance to laid down regulations from the BFA medical committee and the COVID19 presidential Task force. That the two competitions will be played as a precursor to the 2020 football season.” 

The BFA decision has left more questions than answers among football followers, most of whom believe it is the reinforcement of the long-held belief the association had taken ‘a not so well thought decision.’ 

Commenting on the matter, former Gaborone United Treasurer and now turned football commentator Kagiso Rantshwaneng said ‘the BFA is failing to give the nation hope on the restoration of football activities.’ 

“The BFA statement is rather surprising that this communique fails to give the football nation hope and reason to subscribe to the notion of resumption since it carries no tangible undertakings even so late in the day,” he opined.

“It fails to address the pertinent issues: when will we get back to the fields and how? These questions continue to linger in the minds of the footballing nation 6 months since all local footballing activities were prematurely halted and the season declared as having ended,” he observed.

Rantswaneng says the BFA’s decision ‘in mid June to put together a committee to look into how BFA could complete the remaining games of the Orange FA Cup and the Promotional playoffs respectively,’ left many question marks.

He says when this was announced, ‘many asked what then had informed the decision by the BFA to prematurely end the season’ which has now ‘turned out to have meant the premature ending of leagues only.’ 

Even still, Rantswaneng says the report of the committee or the decision of the BFA on finishing the playoffs and the Orange Cup ‘is of immaterial consequence as we still do not have anything tangible as to when and how the competitions will be played.’

The other concern to him is that issues BFA raised that prohibited and led for the leadership to stop the leagues still remain.

Aside from the prevalence of COVID 19, when the BFA announced the end of season, it also declared that it would require an amount estimated around P300 million to continue activities.

“It will be prudent for the BFA to inform stakeholders if money has been found or if the costs have significantly reduced as they purport the return to the football grounds by way of the two competitions outstanding from last season,” Rantswaneng says.

He added that “to state that both the competitions would be played as a precursor to the 2020 season is rather misplaced as the 2019/2020 season was prematurely concluded and we are looking to the 2020/2021 season.”

He noted that the BFA Regional Manager last mentioned to the media that the next season might start only next in February 2021, then one wonders what was the urgency in prematurely concluding the 2019/2020 season as there were still at least 10 months to February 2021. 

“It would be interesting to see all the reports that informed and continue to inform the decisions of the BFA NEC, that is, 1. The report which prematurely ended the 2020 season. 2. The report which was made solely for the resumption of the two competitions and lastly 3. The report that has been made for the 2021 season.” 

“My sincere conclusion informs me that the current BFA NEC have their priorities upside down as they seem so focused on the coming NEC Elections than anything else,” he observed.

Rantswaneng also questioned how the BFA had intended to host its elective General Assembly if the season had not concluded as per the requirements of its constitution.

“The competitions due to be played belong to a closed season and one wonders what informs the undertaking to play them beyond the association’s annual General Assembly,” he said.

While local football followers were led to believe ending the season prematurely was the only solution, Rantswaneng said only time will tell if this had any truth.

“Time has a way of unravelling things, and communications such as this might prove that we were sold a dummy then when the leagues were prematurely ended in May,” he concluded.

For his part Kabelo Brown, Spokesperson for Team Malesu in the coming BFA elective assembly said ‘the BFA statement lacks timelines and is non committal.’ 

Brown further added out the statement offered no explanations on how the decision to continue with the two competitions was reached. “Only incumbent can know if they have found money to continue with two activities,” he explained.

On the BFA decision to schedule the upcoming football season from February to November, Brown said it was not well thought of.

“It will disadvantage Regional leagues in winter where they dont have lighting privileges.  Reasons for hot weather is not justified as the hot months are still included in the new dispensation,” he opined. “Even Zimbabwe which has been the only country doing the February to November season is reverting to international calendar,” he said.

“There is no business sense to this calendar as the Afcon which has been moved from January to June will affect our leagues. Other competitions like the World Cup and the UEFA competitions will also take the few support we have,” Brown observed.

If the league was to start in February, Brown said it still made no sense to have ended the football season ‘as there was no urgency to close the season.’ 

“For the sake of football, they should have found a better solution as the current one has adversely affected our players, administrators and the different stakeholders who get spinoffs from football,” he said.

“This is why we as Team Malesu believe in consultation, engagement and inclusivity. Naturally, when you thoroughly consult the football fraternity one will get the best remedy than the uninformed trial-and-error solution we’re currently faced with in our football,” he added.

Brown said because of the current decision which are not well thought of, ‘our football is going to be punished for years and months to come.’ 

Meanwhile, Brown says the current decisions by the BFA NEC cast doubts on the truthfulness of the figures they said were needed to resume football activities.

“The BFA medical report by their medical experts saying we need 300million pula is a bit far fetched. From our research by our medical advisors, the amount is over exaggerated,” Brown concluded.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.