Thursday, October 22, 2020

Professional soccer just a pipe dream?

Dusty grounds, no official offices, inconsistent executive committee members, lack of finances and lack of transparency are just some of the enormous challenges facing the so-called big Premier League teams. For many years, it has been widely discussed to either commercialise or professionalise such teams so that the country’s Premier League could be money spinning and even help the players to improve their wellbeing compared to the peanuts they currently get.

Most Premier League teams seem not to have taken a single step to show their aspirations in moving forward. What is happening within most of the teams is what has been the case for many years. With local soccer having improved a bit in the past years, the situation might end up impeding development, something that might have negative long term effects.

One former prominent soccer official, who preferred anonymity, expressed despair at the way things are still run in Botswana. The official said it is about time many things are put in place if Botswana is to be at par with most soccer countries that have progressed tremendously.

“To start with, look at the secretariat of the Premier League committee. How many of them can offer professional advice and what measures have they ever put in place to encourage the teams to fast track turning professional? This is sad and it will continue to be like that for many years to come. On top of that, Botswana will continue to be the laughing stock for many years to come,” the official said.

The official also pointed fingers at the teams themselves saying they still have a lot to do. He added that it is pathetic to see teams that have large followers with no office to operate from.
The official said teams fail to join hands with Councils and schools and develop those grounds to mini stadiums. The official said joint ventures could result in teams hosting some of the games and reduce congestion and costs at the National Stadium.

On the other hand, Gaborone United (GU) Chairman, Kelesitse Gilika, told The Sunday Standard that despite all the challenges facing local football, they would try with all within their powers to turn professional.

“After GU was relegated to the First Division, we learned a lot. We do not want to see such kind of situation happening to our team again and we are a few steps towards making drastic changes at the team for the benefit of GU supporters. After getting promotion from the First Division, our main task was to raise the profile of the team which I think we have achieved because we already have a sponsorship. This then means phase one of our intentions has already been achieved,” he said.

Gilika said they have since appointed a task force to look into several factors to consider when commercialising or turning the team professional. He said once the task force has done its work, the executive committee would sit down and map the way forward. Among some of the things Gilika said the task force would take into consideration is owning the football ground and even offices. He said their efforts to secure their current ground for a long period had hit a snag. Gilika said the council told them that several developments had already been earmarked for the ground and they had no chance of securing it.

Meanwhile, Township Rollers’ Managing Director, Somereset Gobuiwang, sang a different tune. He said before teams could do something on professionalism, the Premier League should lead by example first. He said many things are always said over at the Premier League but nothing is ever done and teams cannot improve on such situations.
“The Premier League has since appointed a task force to look into several factors for professionalising football. The task force was supposed to hand over the report last year in October, even up to this date, nothing has been heard of it. As teams, we have also not been informed on the progress of such task force,” he said.

Gobuiwang said if everything can be left to the teams nothing cannot be achieved.
Efforts to contact the Premier League officials were futile at time of going to press.

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