A fiery speech by the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture (MYSC), Thapelo Olopeng, was enough to light up an otherwise subdued night this past Thursday at the Mascom Top 8 awards. While Gaborone United (GU) was supposed to be the highlight reel at the awards, with the team sweeping all awards on offer, it was perhaps the Minister who stole the show with a stinging critique of local football administrators. Giving a key note address at the awards, Olopeng lamented what he termed ‘a decline in local football’s performance’ despite the investment put in by companies.
“While I am happy with companies that invest in local sport, I am on the other hand, disappointed by the conduct of some of our sport administrators. Lately, the performance of football has declined due to a variety of reasons which may include but not limited to administrators who are self-serving and conflicted,” Olopeng said. In a no holds barred speech, the Minister said there is a need for all involved in football to work together to move football forward. “Other sport codes that are more organised and focused are continuing to fly the country’s flag high, while the challenges in football administration continue unabated creating conflicts that discourage the majority of players and administrators who are volunteering to make a difference in sport,” Olopeng said.
“Let us work together to return football to its days of glory and take this sport to another level,” the Minister continued.
Olopeng went on to rebuke the Botswana Premier League (BPL) board for maladministration in what he believed was a self serving decision in the ongoing Sankoyo Bush Bucks saga.
“Maladministration is what my ministry does not condone. Rules of the game should be followed to the letter and applied properly and consistently for the sake of fair play. Decisions of the National Appeals Board should be respected and understood, without interpretations that are self-serving. In this connection, I implore football administrators to be men and women of integrity who uphold high standards in the management of all aspects of the game,” Olopeng declared. The minister then took the cue to make his feelings known on the current ongoing issues at FIFA. “We have noted with concern the developments taking place at the world football governing body FIFA. As Botswana we are very much interested in good governance and transparency across all sport codes at all levels. Let me state categorically that I do not support how FIFA administers the affairs of football in affiliated countries,” the Minister said.
Despite his fiery speech, Olopeng expressed pleasure at what Mascom is doing to help grow sport in the country. “I am aware that Mascom is investing in sport because it forms an integral part of the company’s Brand and Communications Strategy. The company has supported various sporting initiatives such as the Mascom Volleyball League, the Gaborone Marathon, the Mascom National Horse Racing Derby, the Toyota 1000 km Desert Race and the Gaborone 2014 Africa Youth Games. This is commendable in its entirety. The valuable partnerships and financial investments in Botswana sport by Mascom are a source of great pride to us all,” he said.
At the awards, GU’s youthful goalkeeper, Goitseone Phoko was the toast of the night, winning both the Goalkeeper and Player of the tournament awards. The youthful keeper, whose impressive display between the sticks was the major driving force behind GU’s cup success, walked away with a combined P75, 000 prize money for his efforts. In other awards, GU’s Namibian marksman, Benson Shilongo walked away with the Yellow Boot award for being the tournament’s best goalscorer while team coach Rahman Gumbo was voted best coach. GU were awarded a trophy and P1 million for winning the tournament.