Thursday, July 2, 2020

Same script, same characters, different roles – BFA towards elections

It is a story that has become too familiar with local football politics. Same election script, same candidates vying for positions and just different roles or change in ‘political allegiances and camps.’

‘It is the same familiar faces that have come forth seeking to lead. Do they have the monopoly of ideas to lead local football?’ one supporter pondered ruefully.

This supporter may not be alone. The thought of the same familiar faces being recycled continues to baffle even the local football analysts and writers. None can give a clear reason why such is the case.

For Yarona FM sports anchor Kagiso Phatsimo, the number one reason for some familiar faces continuously seeking office is because ‘they have passion for the game.’

Phatsimo says this minority is seen by continuously ‘trying to improve themselves’ and are not just interested in positions of power.

“There is however something most of these ‘volunteers’ do not tell us which makes them to continue clinging to power, even when they complain that as volunteers they are not truly appreciated,” he says.

“The question one needs to ask is; why do these people keep coming back to these positions if they feel so unappreciated?” he asks rhetorically.

“What we should not forget is that once you become a member of the BFA National Executive Committee (NEC), there are some pecks which come with that privilege,” Phatsimo says.

“Imagine if today I am elected to the BFA NEC. I will be sent to different conferences across the world. If I am a smart person, when I get to those conferences, I will network and try to find some business opportunities which I can venture into,” he opines.

Phatsimo says there is no truth to the always touted self-promoting notion of volunteerism. He says the prospect of networking with the rich and powerful at FIFA and opportunities that come with it is what keeps most of the same faces coming back again and again.

On whether there are no capable new faces to lead the beautiful game, Phatsimo says the ‘ugly politics of local football’ are a barrier to capable people with reputations to maintain.

“There is so much evil associated with local football. When honest people see the ugly side of our football, they seek to stay away and keep their dignity and honor,” he opines.

“If your only interest is to do what is good and not dabble into politics, you will not last a day in our football. The ones who are sticking it out are those who love politics and are not afraid to play dirty to destroy another people’s reputations to win,” he says.

He says if people are willing to fight dirty and unashamedly sully others’ reputations to become a volunteer, then there must be something the person gains from voluntarism.

Phatsimo concludes that while it is okay to bring some people back sometimes, that is however not always good. He says by recycling and rehashing the same faces, ‘we run the risk of not growing football in the country.’  

“Having familiar faces always running the game or contesting to run the game has two aspects, both the good and the bad,” football journalist Kagiso Kgaogano says.

“The good being if someone feels that during their tenure, they made mistakes they want to rectify or may be some business or projects they want to complete,” he explains.

Kgaogano however says ‘the negatives come where people seek to return just for the sake of returning just to settle scores or see football as an employment.’   

“We know people volunteer for the game but others just return to use football to enrich themselves, fronting with football because life is difficult out there,” he explains.

He is however quick to add that most of these people do not have anything to add to the development of the game and move from camp to camp without adding any value to football.

“There is also some sense of entitlement among some of these people. They feel and behave as if football owes them,” Kgaogano says.

“Since my involvement in football, what I have observed is that for the majority of people seeking positions in the BFA, this is all about them. It is about what they can gain and not about the game,” he adds.

On the issue of familiar faces always running for office, Kgaogano says this is because ‘football administration is a very difficult and thankless undertaking which is also very costly.’  

“Sometimes new people can be given a chance but will be found wanting as they do not have an idea of the challenges related to the product,” he says.

Kgaogano goes on to say that ‘another barrier of entry to new people is the issue of political alignment’ and how much a person is known by the electorate to trust him with their vote.

“If we do not know you, we are quick to dismiss you. We question who you are and what you are bringing to the game without checking your capabilities,” Kgaogano says.

For his part, football analyst Jimmy George says ‘old faces keep cropping up’ to lead ‘because former players shy away from the responsibility of claiming their rightful turf.’ 

“They enjoy the comforts of sitting on the sidelines far away from scathing criticism. Former players should claim their stake, they have a lot to contribute and they should do the needful,” George says.

He then continues to say ‘football is a practitioner’s game and it should be run by former players who have a better appreciation of the game.’ “of course, they can be augmented by officials who have different but complimentary skill set,” he adds. 

George opines that the reason why familiar faces continue to be recycled in local football leadership is ‘not about them having a monopoly of ideas.’ 

“It is a case of those who are bold enough and daring stepping up to the plate. Generally, as a nation we have an inclination of retreating from claiming what is rightfully ours, so few faces will always show up,” he explains.

“This is to the detriment of the beautiful game that deserve better than the mediocre leadership it is constantly subjected to,” George says.

He goes on to say ‘there is no stopping anyone determined to do a good cause as football in Botswana accommodates plurality.’

“The lower structures lack personnel and I believe teams at regional level would be too happy to accept anyone coming to serve them. The trouble is some do so with not so good intentions,” he concludes.

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