‘When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers the most,’ so goes an African proverb. How apt the proverb may be for the embattled Lobatse based Gunners.
This past week, a few ‘concerned supporters’ of the Lobatse based side wrote to the club hierarchy calling for the sacking of Babitseng.
In their letter, which the current Babitseng led Gunners executive committee has dismissed out of hand, the ‘supporters’ alleged that the embattled chairman’s stay at the helm put the club at risk of being kicked out of the structures by the BFA.
“The club affiliates to BFA. As an affiliate, we subscribe and must comply with the resolutions and regulations of the BFA,” the supporters wrote.
Whether these were genuine supporters or not, the concerns are real. For a while now, the team has been under pressure from the BFA to part ways with Babitseng.
When a defiant Babitseng was elected Gunners chairman in August 2018, the battle lines between him and the BFA were redrawn.
As early as January, the BFA wrote to the Peleng side hierarchy reminding it of the club’s obligations as a member to live by the resolution of the BFA, of which they were part of.
In the letter, the BFA reminded the club that Babitseng still owed the association the monies he had failed to retire from the Zebras’ trip to Guinea Bissau and had been dismissed from footballing activities.
Gunners demanded a meeting with the BFA National Executive Committee (NEC), which was then convened on the 29th of January. At the meeting, the Gunners hierarchy allegedly informed the BFA it would meet with its embattled chairman and get back to the BFA.
On the 20th of February, a defiant Gunners executive, in solidarity with its chairman, wrote to the BFA informing it of its meeting with its chairman where he had allegedly informed them that ‘the matter had long been closed.’
From the BFA’s point of view, this was a clear act of defiance by its member. The team had now become an active player on the issue, and the BFA was ready to act.
On the 10th of May, the BFA NEC met to discuss the matter four days later, wrote a letter to Gunners informing the club of its resolutions.
In the letter, the BFA NEC informed Gunners that it had resolved that ‘Mr Tariq Babitseng shall NOT take part in any of the BFA activities’ and that ‘Extension Gunners FC be taken to the Disciplinary Committee for failure to comply with the decisions of the BFA.’
This was a warning, but the Gunners executive paid no ear, leaving the BFA exasperated. The BFA had had enough, and on the 31st of July, they filed a complaint against the team with the BFA Disciplinary Committee.
Eight days later on the 8th August, Gunners wrote back to the BFA advising they are ‘unable to do anything’ on the Babitseng matter as ‘no new evidence or issue was brought to our attention contradicting our findings.’
The executive went on to ask the BFA to request the association to provide the club with ‘findings or report of any judicial body of the BFA that Babitseng failed to account for an amount of $7267.93 and the sanctions imposed by that judicial body.’
The club also requested ‘minutes of disciplinary process that sanctioned Mr Babitseng and made him ineligible to hold office in any of the structures of the BFA’ as well as a ‘letter or letters to Babitseng advising him such decision of the Disciplinary process by any judicial body of the BFA.’
“In the absence of any of the above, we are constrained from addressing or understanding the source and cause of your complaint and will therefore continue the affairs of the club as we have done since Mr Babitseng was elected by the club membership to be its Chairman,” a defiant Gunners executive committee wrote.
“We therefore hold the position that until and unless the above are addressed through the appropriate processes, Mr Babitseng will continue to represent the club in all structures which require him to do as Chairman of the Club,” the letter concluded.
Commenting on the matter, the BFA chief executive committee (CEO) Mfolo Mfolo confirmed the association had filed complaints with the BFA DC against Gunners ‘in terms of article 116 of the BFA Disciplinary Code.’
“The matter is now with the disciplinary committee and not with the BFA office. As you may be aware, the BFA DC is an independent structure of the association,” he explained.
As such, the BFA CEO said with the complaint now filed, the BFA DC will have to carry its own investigations on the matter, press charges, conduct a hearing and adjudicate on it.
With Gunners now facing disciplinary processes from the BFA, football observers believe the concerns of the ‘concerned Gunners supporters’ are genuine.
Commenting on the matter, Yarona FM Sports anchor Kagiso Phatsimo opined that Gunners is just a victim in the political matter between BFA and Babitseng.
“It cannot be disputed that the charges against Babitseng are politically motivated. It is just a ploy by the current BFA executive committee to block potential opponents from contesting elections next year,” he opined.
He went on to opine that the BFA has no intention of resolving its feud with Babitseng and would rather see it roll on until past next year’s elections.
For Gunners’ sake, Phatsimo said it would be better if the Babitseng stepped aside and fought his battles with the association or if the Gunners executive requested him to step aside for the sake of the team.
“For now, everyone associated with Babitseng will suffer by association and Gunners is no exception. It is sad but it is the reality that ‘ba tshelegelwa ke madi a kgofa,” he said.
The same views were also shared by local football supporter Obert Kgati who said the BFA seems to be using Gunners as a ‘scapegoat’ in their battles with Babitseng.
“Contrary to what the association wants people to believe, we all know that Babitseng was not dismissed from football but rather from his position as the BFA VP Admin,” he explained.
“As it is now, they are using this issue to block Babitseng and if he does not get involved in football related activities, BFA will do nothing against him,” he opined.
Just as Phatsimo, Kgathi said the BFA should man up and level charges against Babitseng to resolve the matter.
In the meantime, he said Babitseng should step aside from his position at Gunners to protect the team from unnecessary victimisation by the BFA.