Saturday, July 4, 2020

Letshwiti and Sebego – bad blood is boiling

One is the current Botswana Football Association (BFA) president, the other his predecessor.

One a successful self-made businessman and the other a successful attorney. Both are headstrong, driven and passionate about football.

As Maclean Letshwiti the businessman prepares to wrestle Tebogo Sebego the attorney and his predecessor at the BFA, there definitely will be no love lost between the two men.

Beyond the façade of geniality in public space, in camera, the two men cannot stand the sight of each other.  

For whatever the reason, it seems Letshwiti cannot shake off the shadow of the man he defeated to take over at the BFA in 2016.

Four years since his departure from the BFA office, there is a feeling Sebego never really left Lekidi and his shadow continues to loom large over its corridors.

More than anything, the former BFA president seems to have also found permanent residency in the heads of the Letshwiti led BFA National Executive Committee (NEC).

This is in stark contrast to other former presidents, whose only presence at the local football headquarters can be seen from the mugshots hung in the Lekidi Conference Centre.

According to some, Sebego’s continued virtual presence at Lekidi is a story of unfulfilled expectations, his own, the current committee’s and above all, those of the local football community.

“It is probably his (Sebego) desire to continue. When Fani lost, it was apparent he was done with BFA. With Sebego it felt like there was a lot of unfinished business hence his ‘presence’ has lingered longer,” Mmegi Sports Writer Mqondise Dube opines.

Dube then continues; “I do not think he was ever done with BFA. The moment he lost in 2016, his heart was set on 2020.”  

“He felt he left at a time when he was getting his act together as he admitted that the first four years were a learning curve and he was still wet behind the ear,” Dube says.

The same sentiments are shared by Yarona FM sports anchor and journalist Kagiso Phatsimo.

“We always knew that he would re run for Presidency,” Phatsimo says. “The sad state of our football since he left made many to regret not voting for him and his team,” he adds.

He says while Sebego had allegedly made it known that he was done with football after his defeat, the words were said in the heat of the moment.

“Back when he said he did not want anything to do with the BFA he was just talking out of disgruntlement. He was not happy with losing the elections. After some time, he settled and got back to his senses,” Phatsimo says.

Another factor, which to a very large degree ensured Sebego did not disappear is perhaps the polarizing nature of the politics.

Under Sebego’s watch, football suffered and this culminated with the mess at the Botswana Premier League (BPL), a mess which continues to haunt local football.

It is not surprising therefore that when Letshwiti ascended to the BFA presidency, it was on the card of ‘cleaning the mess’ in local football.

As an apolitical candidate not stained by the BFA wars and a savvy business man, there were high expectation that he was the right man for the job.  

What Letshwiti had perhaps not fully comprehended was that in assuming the BFA presidency, he also had to tow the line of those campaigning to get him there.

This included, perhaps, inheriting the animosity they had towards their foes and working to ensure these perceived political enemies were vanquished.

“I believe, now more than ever, politics dominates decision making,” Phatsimo observes.

It therefore comes as no surprise that when the BFA started a war on Sebego and his then right-hand man Tariq Babitseng, Letshwiti waded in and signed off for everything.

“Sebego had initially being accused of bad mouthing the BFA via Facebook but the BFA lost the case. This would poke into his ego and encourage him to want his position back.”

In the above, Letshwiti acting in haste, blundered and personally charged his predecessor. In the aftermath, Sebego won on technicality.

“It (politics) has affected many, even beyond those who are fighting. For example; the First Division North committee was removed, allegedly because they are of Sebego’s team. That’s just one example to show that the tussles have affected Football as a whole,” says Phatsimo.

Phatsimo says the political battles had also affected individual teams led by those believed to be Sebego’s allies.

“Many believe Gunners and Notwane were punished for Tariq and Sebego during the Club Licencing in inspection,” he explains.

“This is an ego battle. But, its fuelled by the football Regions. If a region believes Sebego was better than McLean, they will encourage him to re-run,” he says.

Commenting on the matter, Dube says ‘there were some loyalists who remained and who knew their leader (Sebego) was defeated but not entirely vanquished.’  

“Unlike say David Fani, those in his camp, had to disband knowing Fani’s business was done and dusted. But for Sebego’s lieutenants, they knew there was every hope to fight another day,” he adds.

Both Phatsimo and Dube agree that the presence of Sebego, even if he does not occupy any office in Lekidi, has derailed those in office.

“I think his presence has seen eyes being taken off the ball at times. It’s normal if you are the incumbent and your predecessor’s shadow always loom large,” says Dube. 

“There is the ever-present temptation to deal with the shadow, and in the process, you take your eyes off the ball,” he concludes.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.