Thursday, April 9, 2020

Red Sparks’ demise highlights dilemma of community teams

The condemnation to the second division of Tlokweng-based side, Red Sparks, did not only deal Tlokweng a severe blow, but the country as well.

The relegation meant that Botswana’s community teams, the oldest in the country, are slowly going down and might, in the near future, be non-existent. As has happened with other teams, Red Sparks might either find it difficult to come back or might go forever. Because Red Sparks have been competing in the First Division for many seasons, there was hope that sooner, they would be playing in the elite league but it has not been the case.

Red Sparks’ joins some of the once popular teams that are finding it to come back. The teams include the likes of Tlokweng Pirates, Black Peril, and Maphatshwa. Other old teams such as Maletamotse and Mahalapye United Hotspurs are also finding it difficult to win promotion from both the Second and First Division respectively.

Some relegated teams have since died a natural death and there are no signs of resuscitating them at all. Among such teams are Mochudi Big 50, Qeenspark Rangers and Happy Hearts.

Currently, there are only few old teams that are still kicking the ball in the Premier League. These include crowd favourites, Township Rollers, Gaborone United and Notwane. Rollers and Gaborone United were once relegated to the First Division and had to triple their efforts to bounce back. Gaborone United spent five seasons in the First Division while Rollers spent only two.

The sad development about Red Sparks concerns yester year soccer player and coach, Michael ‘Spokes’ Gaborone. Gaborone told The Sunday Standard that Red Sparks is a big team that does not deserve relegation but promotion.

“Red Sparks’ relegation is definitely a big blow to the Tlokweng community because this has meant that a number of Tlokweng teams in the First division have gone down. Red Sparks is also a big team that did not deserve to be relegated to the second division and this is really sad,” he said.

Gaborone also stressed that most community teams are finding it hard to survive for a long time because of managerial problems. He said teams must learn to move with the changing times or else only institutionalised teams would rule top flight football.

“There is still this perception among many team officials that nothing would remove them from their position even if the team is not doing well. People like to hang on to positions while teams suffer and it is one of the contributing factors for the demise of many popular teams and it will continue if teams do not change,” he said.

Gaborone, who once had a coaching stint with the once famous Botswana Under 17 team in 1995, added that football nowadays is business and teams must acknowledge that or else they would not be successful. He said gone are the days when teams only relied on gate takings because currently there are many costs involved in running a football team.

Gaborone also added that players no longer play football with passion but with money in mind. He said nowadays the movement of players is rife and those teams with financial muscle end up killing others. Gaborone said, in their time, they volunteered and played for pride and money was considered latter.

Gaborone, who once played for Black Peril, emphasised that teams must not only recruit players, but have to also engage in strong development structures and produce quality players. He said once development exercises are up and running, teams can also in turn make money by selling such players and replacing them with those from their development programme. Gaborone said during his time at Black Peril he did not recruit any players but he produced for himself and results were there for everybody to see.

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