Nicholas Zakhem has effectively told Gaborone United’s Committee of Elders that it’s either all duck or no dinner as the club’s search for a solution continues. Zakhem tells Mmegi Sport’s MQONDISI DUBE that he wants to come in as an investor or else there is no deal
One season makes a huge difference, and Gaborone United (GU), one of Botswana’s glamour clubs, can attest to that.
At this stage last year, GU, although rocked by the departure of investor, Nicholas Zakhem were a sturdy outfit, both on and off the pitch.
But fast forward to 12months later, The Reds have fallen on hard times. A host of top players abandoned the club at the end of a forgettable season, and only a few of them see the grass as green on the red side of Gaborone.
There have been varied solutions thrown about, particularly on social media, on how the club can move forward.
But the solution appears to lie between Zakhem and the Committee of Elders, who are supposed to be locked in key negotiations over the best model to drive the club forward.
The committee wants a sponsor, who will pour in money and get the Money Machine’s wheels moving.
But Zakhem offers a different route; he wants to be given full control of the team for the next 15years.
Committee of Elders member, Tymon Katlholo says Zakhem’s preferred model would entail, untangling the whole society structure in order to accommodate a new dispensation.
He says they want to operate within the realms of the constitution, which all but closes out any potential investor but opens avenues for sponsors. Zakhem however, says he has come in as an investor before and the constitution amended, to cater for the changes.
“In 2011, I came in as an investor and the constitution was amended to cater for such, hence the formation of Soccer Dynamic, where I was holding 51%,” Zakhem said.
The elders have asked the Botswana Football Association (BFA) to intervene, a route least favoured by Zakhem, arguing there is no dispute nor deadlock.
Zakhem says the time for “donations” is up and he cannot continue to pour money without having influence.
As it stands, he still houses some of the club’s players, reportedly paid Dirang Moloi’s P60, 000 signing-on fee, and the club continues to benefit from his wealth.
But with the tough stance that the committee of elders is seemingly taking, the umbilical cord that binds Zakhem and the team might be cut.
However, the membership will likely have the final say, when they meet for what should be a make-or-break special annual general meeting next weekend.
“I have passed that stage of being a sponsor. For the team to grow, you need continuity where you can do a programme, assess the situation and find the way forward. Sponsorship is short-lived and does not grow the team. The team has not grown in the last few years,” argues Zakhem.
He reveals that his proposal of coming in as an investor was rejected. Zakhem had promised to build the team a stadium and provide a bus, give the club P700, 000 to liquidate the FIFA debt, including P200, 000 to prepare for the season.
Zakhem says after looking at GU’s P3million debt, it was always going to be difficult to come in as a sponsor. Again, he says his company did not need advertisement (mileage), a bait usually dangled to sponsors.
“I gave them a proposal, and a proposal is meant to be discussed. If you receive a proposal, the least thing you can do, is to come
Zakhem says what is key to the club are supporters.
“Supporters are the people who matter to any club. We respect them as elders, but other than that it (sic) does not add value.”
He says he later received a counter proposal that he should come in as a sponsor.
“I am not interested in being a sponsor. They want me to loan them money. If they want money as a donation, they can go to a charity. I am sure Jagdish (Shah) did not donate to (Township) Rollers,” he says.
Zakhem rejected BFA’s overtures to ‘mediate’ saying there was no dispute. He believes for football to grow, it should be commercial, and the societies abolished.
“If you don’t abolish society, there is no way football will grow. An investor will never go into a society, they want to be in control of their money. I cannot put money and have someone come in and tell me how to spend it. At the end of the day, it’s for me to lose or win.”He says if he was to take over as an investor, he will establish an advisory and accountability boards.
But he is not in a position to share power, as he wants full control of the team. Zakhem says supporters should decide the future of the club at the next meeting.
“They should decide on the future of the team, but there is still a long way towards solving the problem at hand. They should table a motion about accepting an investor; it doesn’t have to be Zac (Zakhem). They should put their parameters. It could be any investor, it doesn’t have to be me. You say we need an investor, and these are the parameters. You don’t wait for the investor to put in a proposal. You have your own conditions, more like a tender,” Zakhem says.
He adds that the Committee of Elders should have at least called him to discuss his proposal, as he was open to negotiations.
“But to donate or sponsor is no longer in the equation. Now it’s time to look after my interests, which is my love for GU and football. I should be able to call the shots, because when somebody does, there will always be a conflict of opinion.”
He promises that if he is allowed back as an investor, he will ensure that GU is back fighting for top honors within two seasons.
“My philosophy is that an employee is paid on time, all the time. I cannot promise you what I cannot pay. If you can’t pay them, don’t employ,” he says.
He points out that he cannot consider moving to any other team, as he is loyal to GU.
Zakhem believes the sponsorship deals for local football should be revised according to ‘cost of living adjustments’ as it is difficult for the league to sustain itself.’
He suggests a reduction in Botswana Premier League (BPL) teams, as clubs are already struggling on shoe-string budgets.
“Every year we offer our employees a cost of living salary adjustment. What about in football? The sponsorship deals should factor this in.”