Tuesday, October 20, 2020

`To Do or Not to Do – A Question for Local Football

The question on whether to continue and finish the league season is proving a nightmare for the Botswana Football Association (BFA).  

Just this past week, the association wrote a letter to the local league to make an input on the way forward. In the letter, the BFA asked teams to decide the fate of this league season based on three options.

The options are ‘to complete the remaining league fixtures,’ ‘to declare the current season complete with the league tables as is with the team at the summit crowned champions and the bottom teams relegating’ or lastly ‘declare the season null and void with no champions and no relegation.’

With vested interests at play, the issue on how to proceed with the league season is already drawing differing views.

Francistown Football region chairperson Maokaneng Bontshetse is of the view that the league must finish.

“I want the leagues to finish so that there is fairness. The winners must win fairly and those demoted must get demotion fairly” he says.

Bontshetse opines there is room for negotiations and consultation with the government to come up with workable solution that will not put players, supporters at risk of the pandemic. “It will case more pain if the league is nullified,” he observes.

Football commentator Aupa Mokotedi says more thought should be applied on the matter. He is of the view that the leagues should be nullified.  “Unlike major leagues of the world, it will be suicidal for our clubs which rely on match day revenue to play inside empty stadiums. Our circumstances are totally different. So, it is only logical for football authorities which include the clubs to seriously consider nullifying the season,” he reasons.

If he had his way, Mokotedi says he would take part of the prize money and divide it equally among the 16 premiership clubs.

He says he would then take another portion of the same money, possibly with some extra cash injection, and offer it to clubs willing to surrender their premiership statuses and allow first division clubs to fight for spaces in a promotional play off.

“If that fails, another option I would propose would be to entice the bottom four teams in the premier league with some incentive to agree to relegation. Then I would host promotional play off with the top four teams in each of the two streams of the national first division to fill up the four spaces in the top division,” he says.

The next football season should then be delayed until February 2021. The biggest challenge facing local football comes from the European and South African leagues which run along the local current season. Football supporters also spend money and time following these leagues.

Mokotedi says a change of the season will provide an opportunity for a strong business for Botswana football. Local football lovers will have an unhindered attention to local football.

“The situation is compounded by excessive heat of our summer months which are not really ideal for football particularly between October and February. Therefore, there is a very strong case for the February – November season, when the largest section of the league will be played when temperatures are cool and when major competitive leagues would be in recess especially between April and September.”

Another commentator, Jimmy George wants the leagues to be delayed to avoid taking decisions that can bring the name of football in disrepute.

“Let us wait until September and assess the situation. There is no need to hurry. Leagues all over the world have started and some are preparing to continue with their leagues, this shows that there is hope that things are going back to normal. We can wait and continue late. It can never be too late,” he observes.

He says the decision on the fate of the league cannot be left to teams as they are conflicted and cannot offer an objective view as each team will look at how it will benefit forgetting that football should be the one benefiting. “The decision should lie purely on the medical team,” he reasons.

George says the leagues stopped because of the disease not because something bad had happened in local football, hence the need to wait for the clouds to clear.

“If the leagues are nullified it won’t be fair and it will discourage other teams and investors who have put effort in their teams to gain promotion or win the leagues,” he says.

“BFA should not act like they are in isolation from the rest of the world or the local community. Businesses, schools, transport and other sectors have opened up from lockdown because the curve has been flattened and the danger is minimal as compared to before lockdown,” he continues.

He dismissed the required P300million that is said to be needed to finish the leagues.

“Does it mean that going forward we won’t have the league because it will require at least P300 million? The BFA must come out clear and tell us what they want. The P300 million is just too ridiculous,” George concludes.

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The Telegraph October 21

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 21, 2020.