It is a norm around the world that football officials are the most powerful and untouchable compared to politicians.
Football and politics are seen as two different entities and whenever they meet, all hell breaks loose. FIFA President, Joseph Sepp Blatter, and his executive committee are also seen as the most powerful personalities in the world. Being powerful is the line the Botswana Football Association (BFA) president Philip Makgalemele and his executive committee want to take. The standoff between Makgalemele and Youth, Sports and Culture Minister, Moeng Pheto, is viewed by some people as just a power struggle because nobody wants to be seen as powerless compared to the other one. As the boss of the BFA, Makgalemele is not happy at the way Minister Pheto handles football matters and as the sports Minister, the latter sees himself exercising his powers. The latest revelations of the national team coach’s salary by Pheto in Parliament irked BFA the most and Makgalemele did not mince his words and heavily critisised Pheto.
“We wish to call upon politicians to desist from wanting to gain political mileage by asking questions and making populistic statements on football when they are not always available when most needed,” said Makgalemele. The seeming animosity between the two leaders dates back to last year when the BFA was bidding for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations. Government did not back the BFA for what they say was a lack of adequate resources.
Pheto announced it on Botswana Television during the ‘Matlho a Phage’ programme. The BFA were not happy at the way Pheto communicated the issue. The BFA said Pheto just went overboard by going to the media without consulting with them first because they were the vital stakeholder. Later on followed the Morocco debacle when Botswana players held the country at ransom. They demanded certain amounts of money and threatened not to play. Even though they ended up playing, a commission of inquiry was set up to investigate the whole issue of players’ allowances in the country. The commission later handed the report to the BFA and a press conference was later called. At the conference, each media house was given a copy and the contents were discussed extensively. The conduct of the BFA did not go well with Pheto. He said he only learnt about it in the media and should have been consulted first before the report was made public.
“This is a sensitive matter and as the minister responsible for sports I was not supposed to learn about the report through the media. The BFA are saying they consulted with all the stake holders and I am wondering which stakeholder is important than the Minister,” said Pheto last year. Makgalemele has since made it clear that the Minister was wrong to disclose Coach Colwn Rowe’s salary, which is more than P62 000 and that of Bright which was a paltry P10 000. In an interview with the Sunday Standard, he said they spoke to the minister not to reveal the salary of the coach but to their dismay he did not heed their request. “We tabulated all the reasons why he should not reveal the salary because it is a private matter. We were shocked to hear about it in the media and it was wrong,” he said.
Makgalemele also said Pheto should also have consulted with them if he were to reveal Rowe’ salary. Many people are wondering whether Pheto and the BFA are fighting because they have been at opposing ends for sometime. Makgalemele however told Sunday Standard that the BFA is not bitter and have no hard feelings towards the Minister. He said they are just expressing their views.
Pheto, on the other hand, has since defended himself by revealing Rowe and former national Under 23 coach David Bright salaries. He said the government is channeling a lot of money into football through the Botswana National Sports Council and they should know how the money is used. This year alone football got more than P7 million from the P25 million annual sports grant. Pheto said it is also for the public interest to know how the money is utilised. The Youth Sports and Culture Ministry will soon also bankroll the salary of the national team coach.