When the Maclean Letshwiti-led Botswana Football Association (BFA) executive committee was voted into office just over two years ago, one of the critical areas was to bring back lost partners.
In quick succession, the BFA had lost the BancABC and Orange Botswana sponsorships, while in 2012, soft drink manufacturer, Coca- Cola, withdrew sponsorship for the knockout Football Association Cup.
It sparked despondency, and with Letshwiti promising, during his election campaign, to restore confidence in the local game, he had heaped pressure on himself, as expectations rose.
But certain issues, like the national team’s poor preparations, persisted, and the gloom was not lifted.
Doubts were beginning to creep in as Letshwiti was seen as failing to drive football to the Promised Land. The association was reported to be P10million in the red, and from the face of it, not much progress was being made to wipe out the deficit.
While the BFA struck new partnerships, they were deemed too little to rescue the cash-strapped association and in the eyes of expectant soccer fans, the real deal had not arrived.
A new broom is, rightly, expected to sweep cleanest, and the football family was increasingly getting restive, with little progress on netting major sponsorships.
BFA kept placating the crowd with what was deemed as ‘starters’ but never really got going, which piled criticism on the new administration.
Reports of ‘jobs for pals’ surfaced and Letshwiti had to bat away incessant accusations, amid concerns that those who engineered his campaign were either calling the shots, or were demanding key positions at Lekidi Centre.
Cracks were even reported within the team that catapulted the businessman to the top seat in football. The concerns were that in the midst of the mad season jostling, eyes had been taken off the ball. In the lead-up to the 2016 elections, football was in dire need of an administration that would inject fresh confidence and bring back lost partners, or sponsors. Known as an astute businessman, Letshwiti was seen as the be-all and end-all of football.
But imperfections soon appeared, with the new boss at Lekidi accused of failing to retain a firm handle, particularly letting politicians, rather than technocrats, take control. The Letshwiti administration had appeared to veer of the road, with the regular irritant; internal politics, instead occupying prominent space. The men and women in charge of football were accused
Letshwiti was however, commended for the introduction of junior leagues across the country, although, expectedly, there were teething problems.
The development programme was key to Letshwiti’s campaign, and while the jury is still out, it provided a solid platform. The opening of the second astro turf at Lekidi, largely a FIFA project, was typically the one swallow does not make a summer moment.
The football family was waiting for a swallow that would extend just beyond one summer.
In the past days, although not the biggest catch of the day, the BFA landed two critical deals, in the process, raising the gloom that had enveloped football. Results on the pitch have often been disheartening after the national teams’ poor showing.
Local clubs, Township Rollers and Orapa United are fresh from continental football exits, while the state of the Botswana Premier League has remained shaky, with most clubs in financial dire straits. Football needed its Damascus moment and it arrived courtesy of two corporate entities, First National Bank Botswana and Orange Botswana.
The biggest news in the last two weeks would undoubtedly be the return of the Orange FA Cup, which had been off the shelves since the summer of 2012.
Although there were murmurs over the P700,000 prize money, the P12.6million sponsorship represents a significant step in the right direction.
The FA Cup allows teams from the lower divisions to rub shoulders and cause upsets against their more illustrious brothers in the top flight.
Such rare and glorious moments have been missing for the past six years, and BFA, and the football fraternity, heaved a huge sigh of relief when Orange Botswana came on board.
A few days after clinching the Orange Botswana deal, the BFA announced a P3million FNBB sponsorship for junior teams, to conclude a significant seven days for the association.
Letshwiti, although not entirely out of the woods, will breathe a little easier, as he now has documented evidence of ‘progress’ ahead of what should be a bruising campaign for the BFA presidency in 2020.