Monday, May 25, 2020

School or Football?

Once again national junior teams’ preparations share attention with BGCSE and JC examinations preparations.
In the end, one will play second fiddle to the other, but which one of the two? Going to school for many years has been an outright top priority in Botswana but the possibility of being spotted by international scouts in Algeria and Rwanda next year and ultimately earning a million fold more than one would earn through schooling, offers a troubling choice, especially with the league now being sponsored to a staggering 18 million pula per season.

On Tuesday at a press conference held at Lekidi Football Center, both of the teams coaches, Under 20 head coach, Oris Radipotsane, and under 17 assistant coach, Happy Motshegare, lamented constant interruptions from school callings as the bulk of the team is made up of students who are soon to write their school leaving examination. They said they experience problems with assembling the teams with parents also coming to demand their children with the fear that they will fail.

Present at the conference was Botswana Football Association CEO, Mooketsi Tosh Kgotlele, who was equally worried by the situation. Tosh revealed that they arranged with BOCCODOL to have them send tutors to offer extra lessons for the players while in camp. For a long term solution Kgotlele said they were in talks with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Sports Youth and Culture to build a school of excellence that would incorperate football into the Curriculum.

All this year, there have been players who have been able to combine football and school without the other suffering. Currently, there are a number of players from the league who go to the University of Botswana, Jackie Mothatego of Notwane, Moemedi Mbonelele of Tafic, Kitso Mniko of Masitaoka and others. In the recent years there have been Jones Kwape who has since graduated from the University of Botswana.

If there is any player who has defied the long odds of playing football and studying, it is Phazha Butale. The former Notwane and Zebras playmaker was not just at a tertiary institution but was studying for a program that demanded a lot of one’s attention.
Butale, who graduated after the normal five years of law at the University of Botswana, continued to play football even when he was at work. At some point, the player went for further studies in South Africa and came back to play football. Currently, Butale is resurrecting his late father’s Happy Hearts at the dusty grounds of White City in Gaborone.

Once asked how he is able to live as a successful football player while maintaining academic success, Butale said it takes a lot of sacrifice and a lot of time management.

Things could not look any brighter; the sponsorship of the league by MABC TV will go a long way in pushing the local game towards a professional level. This should make football a career worth considering even over school. However it is still premature, the BFA should speed up their plans to have a school of excellence; it should not just be cheap talk. Sunday Standard Sports seizes this opportunity to wish the under 20 and 17 players well in both their footballing and academic carriers, especially in their coming examinations.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.