Saturday, May 30, 2020

Has Letshwiti missed an opportunity to unite local football fraternity?

BY BOTLHALE KOOTHUPILE

When Botswana Football Association (BFA) delegates voted in Maclean Letshwiti to take over as the association president back in August 2016, there was a lot of hope that he would bring stability to the politically torn association.

For many observers, being an outsider and not part of the BFA political machinations, Letshwiti represented a new beginning.

Despite being voted along factional lines, there was hope that by virtue of not having been part of the BFA political mess, Letshwiti would be the ideal man to whip his football subjects in line and unite the association.

Though he did not commit to uniting the local football fraternity, there were undertones in his campaign trail that the then BFA presidency aspirant did not want to be part of the dirty local football politics but to just find be a solution provider.

However, there is now a feeling that Letshwiti may have missed a golden opportunity to unite the local football fraternity, a feat which would have made him build a lasting legacy of his presidency.

Any expectations for such quickly faded like snow under the harsh sunny Kalahari Desert once the Letshwiti regime took over.

Perceived rivals within the BFA were purged, dissenting voices were silenced and those holding different opinions with the regime were maligned.

Allegations of political crusade against opponents under Letshwiti’s regime have gained momentum as those who were from the faction of his rival Tebogo Sebego cried they were being pushed out from their positions.

The latest of such came from the Debswana First Division North League (DFDNL) where an entire committee known to be aligned to Sebego was purged and replaced with those aligned to the current regime, most of whom had been rejected by delegates during the DFDNL delegates.

In the wake of such, the already divided BFA was polarised even more and battle lines are now drawn between factions, with as many dissenting voices now seemingly targeted.

With relations between different factions as taut as they are now, even Letshwiti admits ‘he would be happy to see local football fraternity work together for the good of Botswana football.’

“Football politics is something that is tearing apart football associations, not only in Botswana but the entire African region. It is one thing that is holding our football from realising the huge potential it has,” Letshwiti opined.

Speaking in an interview, the BFA president admitted that there are a lot of political undercurrents within local football and something needs to be done to create unity amidst all the difference in opinions.

“During my campaigns for the BFA presidency, I never promised to heal the current football divisions and if it was possible, I would be happy at the end of my tenure to be judged on the delivery of my promises and nothing else,” he said.

“However, as a leader of the association, I have responsibilities to local football and if the political divides still exist as they are, I will take the responsibility and admit I failed to unite the local football fraternity,” Letshwiti conceded.

According to the BFA president, being aware of the current tensions, he is still very keen to fight for a united football fraternity and will welcome any attempt made to ensure such.

“Sometimes I get a feeling that our differences are not football based but are rather personal battles. Why? Because if our differences were football based, we would not be fighting many of the unnecessary battles we find ourselves in right now,” he explained.

“I would personally welcome an environment where we can all work together for football and not work for certain individuals, it be Letshwiti or anyone else, at the expense of football. If there is a difference in opinion based in football, even if it differs from mine, I would be ready to listen and accept such a difference. That is the environment I would like to prevail,” he continued.

On what needs to be done in future to curb factionalism, Letshwiti opined that there is a need to engage all local football stakeholders, from regional structures to the top about their responsibilities and what is expected of them by the whole football fraternity.

With two years still remaining before his four year tenure comes to an end, the BFA president believes all is not lost and is still hopeful peace can be achieved at the association.

“We can only grow if we all work towards a common purpose, even if we differ. Personally, I am open to uniting local football,” he concluded.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.