Propaganda, smear campaign, suspension, interim committee, embezzlement, malicious allegations, shenanigans! These are some of the words that were frequently bandied about at a press conference that was convened by the suspended First Division North Committee (FDNC) on Wednesday. Taking into consideration most of the words used at the presser, one could have mistaken it for a political party event, Staffer LEBOGANG MOSIKARE and Correspondent LEBOGANG KOKORO report
FRANCISTOWN: Most football stakeholders in Botswana, especially the fans, are quick to point an accusing finger at coaches when their clubs, whether at team or national levels, lose.
In most cases, the trigger would be pulled on the coach in a bid to turn around the dwindling fortunes of the team oblivious to other factors contributing to the side’s poor performance. But there are some off-field administrative problems that are destroying local football at both club and national structures.
Recently, some members of the FDNC were suspended and an interim committee was appointed to replace them. They are chiefly FNDC chairperson, Mpenzeni Sambandawe and secretary general, Rapula Gaothobogwe who were suspended on allegations of having misappropriated funds belonging to the FDNC.
At the presser addressed by Sambandawe and Gaothobogwe, it became apparent that football politics were at play and a cancer that if not controlled now, has the potential to kill our football in the country, which is already in a precarious situation in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
One only needs to look at the current performance of all our football national teams, especially the Zebras for an answer. To a not so inquisitive mind, amongst many reasons being peddled about, the BFA is to be blamed for not paying the players on time before and after they represent their country in international games. Similar thing with coaches as already alluded to above. To an inquisitive mind, it is easy to decipher that the problems - past and current - afflicting the BFA and its structures like FDNC are fuelled by the jostling for positions ahead of the BFA National Executive Committee (NEC) elections that will be held in 2020. Already, according to Sambandawe and Gaothobogwe, some people they did not name during the presser within the BFA are already eyeing some positions pre-2020 NEC elections. The BFA NEC elections pencilled for 2020 will be used to select people who will steer the beleaguered association to safe waters. It became apparent that while the BFA is faced by various challenges, the lust for power by some people within the BFA and FDNC comes first at the expense of addressing difficulties the BFA as a whole is facing. In simple terms, to these power hungry individuals, the problems of BFA are secondary to their individual agendas. It therefore came as no surprise that words mostly used in political circles occupied the centre
The words, which have now reached new heights following the recent power struggles between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor Ian Khama ditto the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
These shenanigans should at all cost be avoided in our local soccer, which is in ICU - even in our body polity. After the jostling and tussling for positions ahead of 2020, football and not personalities will be the greatest casualty. To both Sambandawe and Gaothobogwe, their committee was purged because it is perceived to be supporting a rival faction that wants to assume the reigns of power in 2020. Said Sambandawe: “There is no such thing as misappropriation of funds (P168,000) that we are accused of having committed. This is a smear campaign meant to tarnish our images before different football stakeholders including from people outside the soccer fraternity.
“After we were suspended from all BFA soccer related activities, we sought legal help. We would take the legal route until the finalisation of this matter. Our names have been tarnished in various media platforms (print, broadcast and social media) hence we called this press conference to clear our names.
We still maintain that our books are in order.” Whoever wins this smear campaign as Sambandawe and his sidekick describe it, the truth of the matter is that not only would football suffer, this has the potential to scare away potential sponsors because no reasonable person would invest his assets in any organisation that is always hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons. To be fair to the Sambandawe’s suspended committee and their purported purgers, Debswana does not derive any value from sponsoring local football.
It is only doing so for corporate social responsibility reasons because its customers are based in developed countries, especially Western cities. It would therefore not be off the mark to say that Debswana would in future never sponsor local football because of these games of the thrones that are prevalent in the local soccer.
There is nothing wrong with jostling for power along factional lines. The problem only arises when some people wielding power within the BFA structures use it maliciously to destroy others for their personal ambitions. Football should unite and not divide us along factional lines. Sanity should prevail in the end.