Thursday, May 6, 2021

Stadiums shut down

Botswana football is heading for a crisis. There is a looming situation whereby there will be no football action because of unavailability of stadiums to stage the matches. Already, the national stadium will be undergoing renovations from the end of June for about eighteen months to prepare it for a possible visit by a top participating country at the 2010 World Cup that will be staged in South Africa.

Already information reaching Sunday Standard is that other alternate stadiums, University of Botswana (UB) and Sir Seretse Khama Barracks (SSKB), are also facing closure for refurbishments. The two stadiums are supposed to be closed anytime soon and will only be available in December. Already, another reputable stadium, Molepolole Sports Complex, is under refurbishment and was supposed to have been completed last year. But FIFA did not endorse the artificial turf laid at the ground. The turf is being re-laid and the onus is still with FIFA.
Although the FIFA Development Officer, Ashford Mamelodi, has expressed optimism that everything would be completed early, it remains to be seen. If FIFA does not endorse it, a further crisis would be imminent.

The closure of both UB and SSKB stadiums means that Lobatse Stadium and Otse are the only alternatives in the Southern region. But the worrying factor is that both stadiums are small, never easily available.

The matches of concern are going to be those of the national soccer team, the sponsored and lucrative Coca-Cola Cup and even some of the Premier League matches.

The situation might be worse for the national team because they play their last game against Ivory Coast at the National Stadium on June 14.

Their next home game is in October against Mozambique. This means the game has to be played at Molepolole Sports Complex because it is the only stadium, after the National Stadium, that meets FIFA requirements. If it is not ready, it would mean Botswana has to head to neighbouring South Africa for the return matches.

Already other Southern African countries like Lesotho, Swaziland and Zambia face the prospect of playing their home games in South Africa because of stadium refurbishments.

The Secretary General of the Premier League Committee, Setete Phuthego, expressed worry at the developments. He said it is a situation that is beyond their control, but they will always try to come up with solutions for the benefit of football.

“We planned other options once the National Stadium is closed, but the looming closure of UB and SSKB is putting us in a very difficult position because they are also going to take time before they are back in full operation. We will, however, try to do our best for the benefit of football,” he said.

Phuthego also did not rule out the possibility that some games might be staged in the northern part of the country where there are facilities. He said the situation might serve as an opportunity for soccer lovers in the northern parts to see action that has been inadequate to them for years.

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