First Division league structure should be re-visited
Friday, 04 November, 2011With teams that get promoted to the Premier League always facing the danger of relegation, I think it is time the composition of the First Division is re-examined.
I know that making it national is a little difficult and challenging, given the fact that the league has no sponsor and attracts poor crowds. However, I do not understand why both the First Division South and North are made up of 12 teams instead of 16 because when they get promoted, they play in a 16-team Premier League division.
The number of games should be the same if not more for the lower division teams. It is therefore a serious oversight or anomaly that teams seeking promotion to the supreme league, should only play 22 league games instead of 30 as it is the case in the premier league. Perhaps this explains why these teams always struggle because either they are not the true champions of their divisions or their league programme is too short. A league programme should not be like a tournament, but a real test of the pedigree of teams. In fact, a look around other countries shows first division leagues are usually made up of teams that are either equal in number or more to the premier division. This is because players in this particular league,teams do not play many tournaments nor are they in the national squad.
So it is wise to stretch their programme so as to prepare them for the tough challenge that is the Premier League.In other words, it is best to have a tough mock examination than a weak one and this is basically the case with Botswana football. I know that some people might think that I am crazy, but it does not make sense that a team in a lower and not-so-competitive division should only play 22 games and then get promoted to a much lager and tougher division. The belief is that the top team in the First Division is as good as the bottom team in the Premier League, hence it still baffles me that we get three teams from the First Division getting automatic promotion to the Premier League, despite the inherent anomaly that exists in the first division.
This, I think, is one of the reasons why these teams always struggle when they get promoted to the Premier League. You see, playing 30 games is a challenge on its own and this is also contrary to those who say the league should be trimmed. If trimmed and there are no other games, the standard falls down. Equally, the belief that players can have more time for the Zebras is false, because real grooming and development takes places at club level. The reason why the league trophy is the most coveted and the ultimate prize is because it is not easy to achieve for it requires a lot of resources, planning, determination, discipline, unity and focus. Like it is said one swallow does not make a summer, 10 games are not enough to win one the league. So those calling for the trimming of the league have obviously not properly analysed or considered the many dynamics involved.
The longer the league, the better- it is for the development of the game. No wonder the performance of the Zebras has improved since the introduction of a 16-team Premier League. This, therefore, means that the First Division should have the same number of teams as it is in the Premier League so that there is a balance and teams can have the necessary experience. This will give us a true reflection of who the real champions are.
Alternatively, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) can make the First Division league national ,but then just like it was the case with the Coca-Cola Cup, subsidize the teams with transport. For now the Premier League ought to be left as it is because we can see an improved senior national soccer team as players have a longer run.
Having more teams in the First Division and Premier League helps the association to unearth more talent. I, therefore, call for the immediate re-construction of the First Division. The number of games for teams in this division should be equal or more than those of Premier League teams.
Perhaps the BFA ought to establish a task force that can look at the structure of the association including that of the composition of the league division. Having a 12-team league tends to create a knockout format or structure.The more the games, the merrier the league becomes.
2012 AFCON finals draw
Following the draw for the Orange Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals last Saturday in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, every soccer fundi who thinks matters has made comment on the Zebras' draw. As is now common knowledge, the Zebras have been pitted against four times champions- Ghana, Guinea and Mali. This is a very tough, but welcome draw. In fact looking ahead, I think the Zebras are blessed. Personally I do not expect anything from the team because the whole nation right from the President down to the last supporter will be on a learning curve. This includes both the electronic and print media. What matters therefore is the lessons and experience that the nation will get from these games. The Holy Grail of football is the World Cup where bounties of millions of dollars await each country irrespective of performance. It is for this reason that the Zebras should use the AFCON finals as preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Our group, which includes South Africa and Central African Republic, is a winnable group.
The South African team, Bafana Bafana, has definitely lost its shine such that even its nickname is no more applicable. The team cannot be called Bafana Bafana anymore because it cannot run, dance or shoot like real boys. It can neither play entertaining football as demonstrated by its cowardly act against little Sierra Leone, where it resorted to all sorts of time wasting which at one moment bordered on daylight cheating and unsportsmanship behavior devoid of fair play. Some commentators instead of looking at the Zebras have tried to look into the opposition camp. This can be very dangerous and misleading. We need to pay more attention on our own team and, like I said, we need to use these games as preparation for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
However, we need not embarrass ourselves. Millions of people will be watching the Zebras especially during our first game against Ghana, hence our players ought to sell themselves by putting up a courageous fight. I do not expect us to beat Ghana, but I expect the team to put up a brave show. I know that public confidence in the BFA is waning, but the fact that the association managed to qualify for the finals shows that it did something right and as such we should have the same faith and hope. The food, the water and accommodation will be another key factor and I take it that hotels there will adopt the international trend by giving teams their preferred menu than force them to eat the local food. Go Zebras go!