Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Talent Development Scheme – A Panacea to Botswana Football Development Woes? 

The change in Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership continues to be a major impediment in the country’s football development initiatives.

Each incoming regime strips down the previous one’s initiatives to set its own. This has led to a constant lack of continuity, thus hindering the progression of football countrywide.  

In view of this, FIFA in collaboration with the government of Botswana and the BFA recently launched the Talent Development Scheme (TDS). The programme is from FIFA, meaning no incoming regime could change it.

The program is borne off FIFA’s realisation that the gap between developed and developing countries who are trying to catch-up keeps on widening. It is also meant to ensure continuity in the selected football associations development programmes.

BFA Technical Director (TD) Tshepo Mphukuthi Mphukuthi says the program stands as a solution to narrow this gap. He says it will raise the standards of junior national football teams for both men and women. This initiative has also been noted to be driven by FIFA’s desire for a long-term dedication to global talent development.

“TDS is one of FIFA’s programs for member association to apply for. Its intention is for young player scouting within the country with the intention of nurturing talent identified,” the BFA TD explains.

He adds that “the project objective is to create a platform for emerging talent which will expose them to quality coaching and a competitive environment. It also helps with the creation of a pool of players to be selected for men and women junior national team at U15, U17 and U20 level.”

Under this initiative, identified players will be channelled to Radisele and Mogoditshane Centres of Sports Excellence (CSE). There is also a possibility of expanding to other areas.

TDS may also help in solving the country’s over reliance on school sports and mainly teachers for talent identification. This becomes even more pronounced as school sports is currently on hold. For this project, Mphukuthi says a team will be established to help with talent search across Botswana to ensure no one is left behind.

“We have signed a MOU with the government, and to be precise with Ministry of Basic Education (MOBE) & Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture (MYGSC) to give us access to work with children in the schools,” the BFA TD says. 

As the TDS takes off, one concern is the possible effect it will have on the academic performance of the student footballers. With the current downward spiral of results, some parents are forced to curtail their kids’ participation in sport to compel them to focus on the academics.

With this concern in mind, Mphukuthi says their programs are tailored such that there is as little interference with academics.”U17 boys and girls are mainly school going children. That is why we train on weekends and during school vacation. U20’s are mainly out of school. Those who are in school are training at the CSE on a daily basis, and we will meet the rest of the team during school vacation. So, we have tried to cater for everybody,” he explains.

For student athletes who may not proceed to CSEs due to poor results, their sporting journey will not end. They will not be removed from the program and will be allowed in the national team set-up. 

“We have made our SWOT analysis and we understand where we are and where we want to go and how. It’s a process but not an event. Our roadmap may take time to show impact but we are confident that we are on the right track,” he says. 

Football analyst Bongani Malunga believes the TDS initiative is one of the best ideas FIFA has ever created. “Talent has no boundaries, this initiative gives footballers, especially the young ones, a chance to showcase their skills and be a part of the national team set up from a fledgling stage. Talent identification is the first step in building for the future. Such set ups help create a talent pool in which selectors can pick from,” he says. 

Malunga says Botswana is making strides in terms of development. The younger generation of parents are more receptive to the idea of their kids choosing sports as a career. “With them on board, the BFA will not struggle to implement FIFA’s programs. The players will be the big winners in the end,” says Malunga. 

Sport journalist Thabo ‘The Brand’ Osekeng notes that the initiative is a fundamental step towards enhancing the competitiveness of national teams globally. “The programme speaks to outreach challenges faced by talent in rural localities, in the sense that such talent will now be followed and nurtured whereas available set up programmes are only situated and operate in urban and semi-urban area,” he observes.

“Everyone will have a fair chance, unlike the current, where development and talent nurturing is strictly accessible to those who can afford fees charged by academies,” says Osekeng.


Read this week's paper