Thursday, July 2, 2020

No political will to grow women football?

‘Where there is a will, there is a way,’ so goes an English proverb. Unfortunately for Botswana women football, this proverb does not hold sway.

Women football has grown by leaps and bounds locally in the past few years. it therefore came as no surprise for those close to women football, when the local ladies dumped the much celebrated Banyana Banyana out of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualifiers.

Despite its growth and better promise of yielding glory, as compared to men’s football, there however seems no political will, both at government level and Botswana Football Association (BFA) to grow it.

Underfunded and on the fringes, Botswana women football is used more as a springboard to get funding, not for its own development but rather for other activities.

While the football world governing body FIFA avails grants towards a league or tournament for women football, barely little trickle down to the local league.

“The one and only time we directly benefitted from the FIFA grants for women football was during the Tebogo Sebego BFA era,” a source said.

“At the time, the BFA gave each ladies’ team a weekly grant of P1 000 for them to honour league games and this helped us greatly,” he continued.

The source however says this was also a once off. Even during the Sebego regime, women football never really benefited much from the FIFA football grants for women.

“If you ever ask the BFA where the women football grants go to, you will never get an honest answer. They cannot account if the money was used for women football,” one BFA insider explained.

Of the US$50 000 (+/- P500 000) FIFA avails to BFA as grants towards the women’s league or tournaments, none of the teams directly benefit.

“From the FIFA grants to women football, we give the BFA women structure P30 000 for administration costs,” Chief Executive Officer Mfolo Mfolo explained.

Aside from the said grant, Mfolo says some of the monies is used by the BFA to pay referees’ fees for the women league matches.

While other regions agree that the BFA does indeed pay for referees, others like the Kweneng Region Women Football is seemingly not receiving any help.

“During the past season, Kweneng region teams paid from their pockets for the referees. For a match, each team paid P75 each to make P150 to pay referees,” a source revealed.

“This year, the BFA promised to pay referees but they have not even paid, not once. Because of their promise to pay referees, we abandoned the arrangements we had and now we rely on supporters to officiate matches,” said the source.

For the BFA CEO Mfolo, this could not be right. According to him, the BFA is paying as he just recently processed payments for referees.

But where does the large share of the grants towards women football go? According to Mfolo, the monies are used for various activities within the association.

The BFA CEO says some of the monies given as grants for women leagues are used for BFA administration costs.

“The money is part of the BFA recurrent budget and some of it is used for the day to day running of the association,” he explains.

He goes on to add that some of the grant monies goes towards financing of junior national teams, which he says, unlike the senior teams, ‘do not get financial help from the government through the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC).’

“The costs of running junior national teams and helping them honor their games are very high and the government does not help with the junior national teams,” Mfolo says.

As such, the BFA CEO says the association uses some of the funds for women football, along with some from other FIFA grants, to finance junior national teams.

However, for those close to women football, all these point to lack of political will to grow football, both at government and BFA level.

“If the government can at such a short time find money for COVID 19 relief payments to footballers at Premier League and First Division, it shows money can be availed,” a source says.

“All that needs to be done is for monies intended for women’s league to be used for that purpose and for the government to augment that,” the source opines.

“The government will spend more than P5 million on players’ salaries for the 3 months. All we need is for the government to avail to us just P1 million towards sponsoring women’s leagues to augment the P500 000 FIFA grants,” opines the source.

“Those amounts invested in the women’s leagues for four (4) years would set up our structures to stand on its own feet,” the source concludes.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

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