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With elections behind, now for the hard part

MQONDISI DUBE
Road works ahead: BFA has a hard road ahead PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
After the victory at Travel Lodge, there was the clink of glasses, firm handshakes and endless hugs. An often tumultuous campaign had passed and the victors were savouring the moment. But, that was only a brief respite, as a long arduous four-year journey for football begins, argues Staff Writer, MQONDISI DUBE

All that year, the animals worked like slaves. But they were happy in their work, they grudged no effort or sacrifice...

Throughout spring and summer they worked a 60-hour week, and in August, Napoleon announced there would be work on Sunday afternoons as well.

This work was strictly voluntary, but any animal that absented himself would have his rations reduced by half.

This is an excerpt from George Owell’s satire, Animal Farm. It was a period after the animals had ousted the humans from Manor Farm.

There was a collective sense of unity, the animals were prepared to go the extra mile in order to make life much more palatable.

The extract from the book probably resonates with life at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) in the run-up to the elections. It was all shoulders on the wheel as the foot soldiers were summoned to work extra hard in order to secure the vote.

It was strictly voluntary, but they knew that any slackening would mean a loss (even of income) in a poll that drew significant interest across spectrum. Those who did the bidding were acutely aware of the implications of a loss. It could potentially mean the loss of bread on their table, hence the need for the Boxer’s maxim, “I will always work harder”.

At the end, victory was delivered, with Maclean Letshwiti securing a second term at the helm of the BFA.

The emotions died down after a fierce and often tempestuous campaign, and football drifted away from the popular discussion tables.

The elections were presented as the ultimate, the alpha and omega in a complex football system. The process was seen as a complete system, rather than an organ of the system.

But far from it, like the victory celebrations that followed the overthrow of Mr Jones at Manor Farm, long and hard days lie ahead.

After the celebration died down, the animals discovered how much they

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had to do. The harvest was significantly lower than previous seasons and the windmill presented unexpected difficulties, amongst a plethora of challenges.

As the clouds of the October 10 victory begin to clear, the challenges ahead are beginning to emerge.

The football has not been kicked in any competitive match since the suspension of sport activities in March. There is an added, much bigger elephant in the room; COVID-19.

The virus represents a difficult examination for Letshwiti and his lieutenants.

Even before the pandemic struck, there were other issues asking testing questions, which called for immediate action. The Botswana Premier League (BPL) Premiership sponsorship with telecommunications company, BTC lapsed at the end of the season.

The sum had already been reduced from P13 million to P5 million, which resulted in the scrapping of prize money for clubs. The television broadcast rights deal had entered into a cashless phase after the previous regime signed a five-year contract with Botswana Television.

The new administration has to negotiate a solid deal to ensure clubs receive a handsome amount. However, the BFA has managed to off-load much of the BPL work, after granting the organ full autonomy at the general assembly.

The return for teams to action would prove costly under the new normal. The BFA has not said how it would manage competitions after the season was abruptly declared complete on COVID-19 fears.

The regime indicated that P300 million would be needed for football to return, and it remains to be seen how action resumes, amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. Other countries are back on lockdown as the virus refuses to subside.

The Letshwiti team anchored its campaign on continuity, promising that they had dealt with off the field issues in their first four years, and it was time to move on field. Eagle eyed fans are tracking progress, as the regime tackles the hard part after the election victory.



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