When the incumbent BFA President Tebogo Sebego roped in the soft spoken Tariq Babitseng to lead his campaign for re-election to the BFA higher office, many eyebrows were raised. Not without cause of course. Among all the candidates for the Botswana Football Association (BFA) National Executive Committee (NEC) posts, none polarises opinions like Babitseng. To his detractors, the former BFA Vice President Administration is untrustworthy, a character with a chequered past as a football administrator. As the acting BFA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 2012, Babitseng was suspended for ‘embezzlement of funds’ and was suspended.
This would however not stick and the Molepolole born administrator was then cleared of any wrong doing. Fast forward to two years later in 2014 and Babitseng, then serving as the BFA Vice President Administration, was once again suspended and later fired from his post. This time, Babitseng got a rap in the knuckles for alleged mismanagement of contingency funds given to the senior national team, the Zebras, for their trip to Guinea Bissau. Unlike in the first instance, Babitseng was this time fired without being called for a disciplinary hearing, leaving the allegations of misappropriation of funds levelled against him continually hanging like a dark cloud over him. According to sources, as Sebego steps up his campaign, he has had to answer questions regarding Babitseng. The latest of these are said to have come when the BFA President canvassed for support from some regional chairmen in the Southern region, begging the question, why is Sebego not discarding his erstwhile Vice President?
“It is true that people have questioned me on issues of integrity regarding Babitseng and I have answered them. The truth is that Babitseng is not guilty of any offence. As you may be aware, after he was suspended, an investigation was launched to check if there was any wrong doing on his part and the report has exonerated him,” the BFA President explained. The BFA President, who has always been accused of having too much of a soft spot for Babitseng, went further to say that his young prot├®g├®’s removal from his post in the BFA NEC was flawed. “When he was suspended, it was through a show of hands vote and five of the nine NEC members present voted for him to be removed. I had expressed my discomfort at the way things were being done but at the end, I was told that this was a collective decision and we had to remove him, which we did,” the BFA President said.
On hindsight, Sebego said Babitseng was rather a victim of football politics and as such should not be cast aside as he has a lot to offer local football. “In my time in football, I have seen many people’s careers being destroyed by football politics. Babitseng is a victim of politics. When I look back at all that has happened, I believe that his suspension and eventual firing was a ploy to get rid of him,” Sebego explained. “Babitseng is a shrewd young entrepreneur who also has a keen eye for potential commercial opportunities. While still in the NEC, he negotiated some successful sponsorships and partnerships for the BFA. When he left, football suffered as things slowed down a bit. He can offer a lot to football and football will be richer with and not without him,” the BFA President concluded.