PALAPYE: Football has been left mourning the sudden demise of former First Division North secretary, Rapula Gaothobogwe.
Known as ‘senior-secretary’ in football circles, Gaothobogwe died on Tuesday morning at his farm near Serowe from suspected heart failure. He will be laid to rest in Serowe over the weekend. The football family has paid glowing tribute to the father of two for his selfless service to the game.
He started his journey as a football administration at Francistown based TASC in 2009 as club spokesperson. He later joined First Division North executive committee as a member in 2012 before he ascended to the secretary position two years later.
He held the position for three consecutive terms before he was ousted in 2018 through what was seen a politically motivated suspension. The case that involved the suspended First Division North has not been resolved. Mpenzeni ‘Samba’ Sambandawe who was the First Division North chairperson in Gaothobogwes last tenure, remembers him as a fortified football soldier who stood for truth and growth of the sport.
The duo met through sport while Samba was at FC SATMOS. Their clubs competed in the similar league then.
They went to serve in the same FDN committee from 2014. Samba also joined as a member then, while Gaothobogwe was already the secretary. Samba said it was Gaothobogwe who encouraged him to contest for the chairmanship in 2016, and together they won. During his tenure, he ensured the FDN promoted two teams to the elite league every season.
He worked closely with the clubs and other stakeholders. Samba said the departed was the engine room for their executive committee and ensured they stuck together like glue.
He also said ‘Raps’ brought ideas that saw FDN get recognition in different quarters, reached remote areas, and attracted followers even more than the top league.
“His language was football and church. He had massive ideas for football development and committed a lot of his time bringing them to life. He is a massive loss to football,” he said.
“The one thing that pains most is him passing away before his name could be cleared, but it is for us that live to ensure we clear his name so
“To us, he was very supportive and honest. He mentored me into becoming a regional secretary. At the BFA assemblies, all the structure’s secretaries referred to him as the senior secretary.
He guided and represented us well. He was very articulate when he spoke football,” Tau said. Palapye All Stars chairperson Molefhi Obenne said Gaothobogwe believed in the structures at Palapye All-Stars, and contributed his time to assist develop the club.
“He was an avid reader and a well-informed individual. He was principled and stood for the truth. He was our supporter and contributed to our development at Palapye All-Stars. Because of politics, football lost a great leader,” Obenne said. Onalenna Dithakanyane who worked with Gaothobogwe while at Sankoyo Bush Bucks and served with him in the suspended committee reckoned had clubs listened to his commercialization ideas, they would have gained massively and transformed. TAFIC’s Machola believed in the leadership of Gaothobogwe and his colleagues at FDN.
He said the league had a vibe bigger than that of its opposite in the south. He said since they were laid-off the excitement in FDN league took a remarkable dip. “First Division in the north has never been the same since Rapula and his colleagues left. There was too much excitement and following, and it all collapsed.
It goes to show how worthy he was for football.” His former colleague at TASC Jonas Ikgopoleng who is the current FDN chairperson said they were like brothers during their days at Tango Boys. He said they were the only two active members when Botswana Defence Force dumped TASC and people were deserting the club. “He was patient and believed there was potential when everyone deserted.
He brought numerous concepts of keeping the ship afloat. He was a trusted leader depending on how much one understood him,” Ikgopoleng said.