Saturday, January 23, 2021

Stadium crisis looks far from over

For the past two years, many Batswana were happy that they were going to watch many games undisturbed as some new stadiums were being built while others refurbished.

The major beneficiary was going to be the Premier League, which was going to use all the stadiums. The stadiums concerned are University of Botswana (UB), Lobatse, the National Stadium, Sir Seretse Khama Barracks (SSKB) and the Francistown stadium.

Lobatse and the Francistown stadiums were built from scratch while others were just renovated. All the stadiums ran behind schedule and the only complete stadiums to date are UB and SSKB that were only grassed. However, with the exclusion of the Francistown Stadium that is still under construction, the other three had grassing problems.

UB and SSKB have long been completed but teams playing on them have complained of pitches being bumpy.

UB Stadium had to hire another contractor to do grassing after the initial contractor had running battles with the Botswana National Sports Council that nearly led to a legal tussle.

Both the National Stadium and Lobatse are also facing the same grassing problem. This then means Batswana have to wait a bit longer for grassing to be completed.

The problem with the National Stadium is reported to be the drainage system that is not coordinating with the stadium lawn. The situation is worse when it rains or even when being irrigated because water cannot drain away. According to experts, the only way out is for the current grass to be totally removed. Lobatse Stadium was supposed to be officially opened last weekend but it could not because of the grassing problems. The delay in grassing is once again going to hit hard the Premier League and the national team.

Already the Zebras have started their 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on a good note but are forced to use the small UB Stadium.

Youth, Sports and Culture Minister, Shaw Kgathi, has for the past year and half been visiting the stadiums, checking their progress and one would have thought contractors would have done their best.

When Sunday Standard confronted him on the issue, he said the grassing problem is the issue for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Technology.

“As the Ministry of Sports, we are the consumer and have to receive the end product. I have been checking the progress of the stadiums because most activities under my Ministry use the concerned stadiums and the whole issue of tendering and engineering work falls under the Ministry of Honourable Johnnie Swartz,” he said.

Kgathi, however, expressed disappointment with the latest developments, saying they are hitting sports development in the country hard. He also expressed hope that once the concerned parties sit down, an amicable solution would be found.

By press time, efforts to contact the relevant authorities of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Technology were futile.

On the other hand , the executive secretary of the Premier League, Setete Phuthego, told Sunday Standard that they are going to be heavily affected by the latest developments.

He said the Premier League cannot conveniently compile the fixtures because there would not be enough play grounds. This is also going to mean that most matches are going to be continuously cancelled and even shifted at the last minute.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper