It is a natural phenomenon world wide for any league to produce champions and losers at the end of every season. Champions normally get honours by either promotions or qualifying for championships games. Losers or bottom finishers have one way out: relegation to the lower divisions.
It is rare to find those teams that are always stable in the middle of the league without either going down or up. Most teams fight for honours while others always fight to survive the dreaded relegation.
That, however, seems not to be the case within Botswana’s first division teams. There are those teams that have been campaigning for many years without either being promoted or relegated to the lower divisions. They have been stagnant in their leagues for many years. In addition, they are, in most cases, dangling somewhere in the middle.
Those that get promoted or relegated are only gone for a short time, like spending just a season away.
Teams like Naughty Boys, Blue Diamonds, Orapa Wanderers and Boteti Young Fighters only got promoted to the elite league for a season but only to go back where they had come from.
Orapa Wanderers were promoted in 2004 and only stayed in the new league for a year before being condemned back to the first division. The following year, 2005, it was Naughty Boys who also only stayed for a year. Blue Diamonds stayed in 1993 while Boteti Young Fighters did so in 1995.
Currently, Jwaneng Comets is in the elite league but they might also go down, as has been the case in the previous seasons. Comets are currently the Premier League trailers.
Other teams, like White Diamonds and Diamond Chiefs, also once tasted the second division for a short period of time before bouncing back into the first division.
Teams that have made the first division their permanent home are Red Sparks, Sharps Electrical, Cosmos Blizzards, Wonder Sporting and Orapa Bucks.
Most of those teams that have made the first division their permanent home have been in existence for a long time and are even piped to the Premier league by some of the newly formed ones.
For instance, teams like Red Sparks, Naughty Boys, Boteti Young Fighters, White Diamonds have been in existence for close to two decades; whereas Ecco City Green, FC Satmos were formed less than ten years ago and are already in the Premier League.
Long serving chairperson of First Division South, Charles Chilisa, attributed poaching of the players as the main problem. He said some teams are stagnant in the first division because Premier League teams give them a hard time by taking their players. He even called on the mother body to do something about it.
“Many first division teams are always in the re-building process and never have continuity. This is because Premier League teams always poach their players. Currently, there are many players in the Premier League who were playing for such teams last season and how do you except them to progress under such circumstances,” asked Chilisa.
Chilisa also said lack of adequate resources play a role. He said many first division teams do not have associate sponsors and that makes their survival even more difficult. He added that lack of a sponsor for the first division leagues was the main problem for many years until paramedic company, Med Rescue Botswana, helped them last year. Chilisa appealed to many companies to help first division teams so that they become more competitive by reducing the flow of players to the Premier League.
On the other hand, veteran first division player, Mooketsi Motlhagodi attributed mismanagement as the main problem among first division teams. Mooketsi, who now plays for Tlokweng United after 18 years of service at Naughty Boys, said many first division teams have neither vision nor welfare for their.
“After Naughty Boys were relegated last season, I sat down with the management to map the way forward. They differed with me on many things and I ended up decamping to Tlokweng United. Right now Tlokweng United have a vision and are winning. Most of the teams in the first division do not play to win and get promoted, but only to survive. That’s why some of them have been there for more than twenty years,” he said.
Motlhagodi added that if Naughty Boys were serious about promotion for the next season, they would not have lost some of the key players who have since joined Premier League teams.
Hard tackling defender, David Mfolo, and enterprising striker, Mogorosi Magetse, have joined Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Gunners respectively. Another midfielder, Jackson Tshipo, has joined army side BDF XI.
Motlhagodi also said most of the first division teams never have pre season training before the league begins and do not even know the importance of getting promotion.