Thursday, January 28, 2021

Professional soccer in Botswana remains a pipe dream

For years now talk of professionalising the Premier League has been like a song sung every day with little progress of fine tuning it.

The way things are, it looks it will remain a pipe dream if drastic measures are not put in place.

For the league to be really professional, it should all start at club level that is when it would spread to other areas involving football.
At team level, the pacesetters should be the so-called big teams whose presence is paramount to the survival of soccer. These are teams that, without them, soccer would be very boring.

In Botswana, the so-called big teams are Township Rollers, Mochudi Centre Chiefs, Gaborone United (GU), Extension Gunners, Tafic and Notwane.
All these teams, with the exception of GU, seem not to have made strides as far as turning professional is concerned. Basic requirements to run a team leave a lot to be desired.

These teams train on dusty grounds they have been using for ages. They do not even own a playing ground and one wonder why they don’t approach ground owners or schools and reach a mutually beneficial arrangement. Even when they hold meetings with their supporters they do it at the teams respective grounds while there are so many community halls that are quite cheaper.
Most of the big teams are community owned and people are unwilling to privatise while it has proven that community ownership does not take teams anywhere.

At least GU has tried something. Early this year they announced that they had privatized their team and the majority shareholder would be businessman, Nicholas Zakhem, who would have 51 percent.

GU was also the first team to have the team jerseys printed with players’ names.

GU and national team defender, Rapelang ‘Razo’ Tsatsilebe, told Sunday Standard that the pace at which professionalising football in Botswana is going is worrisome. He said it is too slow and concerned authorities should fast track it.

“It is really going at a very slow pace and it is definitely not good for our football. We should stand up and do something about it. Imagine I have been a player before and now I am into coaching but things still look the same,” he said.

Tsatsilebe, who is also a caretaker coach for BMC, emphasised that the most important element is for players to change their mindset from that of the amateur setup to professionalism.

“To be honest, our players are not used to a situation whereby they can just leave their respective jobs and take football as a career. Either one doubles up and focuses on the job rather than playing football. This is one element that is killing us and if it was not for that we could be somewhere like other countries. If you look at most foreign players in this country, they are already used to the professional set up and do not mind taking up football as a career while our players cannot,” he said.

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