Botswana football is right in the middle of a confusing stage. Is it professional or amateur?
The leaders will tell you it should be at professional level, but the overwhelming story on the ground tells you there is still a sizeable chunk of amateur football. As used to happen back then when the colonialists arrived with their English, our fore parents struggled to speak the pure English. Instead they spoke something in between which became widely known as ‘Fanakalo’. It was neither English nor vernacular, but it served its purpose of communication. Botswana football is at crossroads. The Botswana Football Association has emphasised the need to adhere to professional standards underlined by adherence to certain requirements contained in Club Licensing. Club Licensing is a strict programme meant to ensure clubs achieve a level of professionalism. To this extent, clubs are then required to obtain a license to play in the Premier League every season.
There are requirements to be met before a license is issued by the First Instance Body. While the licensing of clubs is noble and could drive the path to a professional league, the manner in which it is being applied in the local league has been laughable. Clubs that fail to out rightly obtain the license always find a backdoor to compete in the league. This has resulted in chaotic scenes reminiscent of the old days where football was a pastime. The likes of Mogoditshane Fighters and Extension Gunners have been perennial violators of the Club Licensing, but due to the leniency of those in charge of football, and the general ‘botho’ approach to issues, has seen transgressors consistently being pardoned. While it is difficult to effectively condemn a club of Gunners’ stature to the dustbins of history by relegating them to the lowest league, it could be the necessary evil if football is to make the step up.
Football administrators should choose where they want to place the local game. They can abandon the strict requirements presented by Club Licensing and leave clubs to compete as amateurs. Right now it is a haphazard mix of both, with sides like Township Rollers, Gaborone United, Jwaneng Galaxy, Orapa United, BDF XI, Police XI and Security Systems exhibiting the seriousness required at the top level. Then there is a heap that has the likes of Fighters and Gunners that still treat the game as amateur. The clubs are worlds apart, which effectively leaves the local game in a ‘Fanakalo’ state. The Botswana league is not outright professional while at the same time, it cannot be said to be amateurish. It is something in between and administrators should make a quick choice. It cannot be all of the above when someone asks where Botswana football stands. The authorities should make a clear all duck or no dinner approach. Mixing professional and amateur football is a bizarre concoction, which will not take the game to the desired level. To get the duck for dinner, there is need to make some painful decisions, including trimming Premier League teams to 12.
That should be the starting point, in order to remain with the ones that are serious about competing at the highest level. The days of a ‘Fanakalo’ league should be a thing of the past.