FRANCISTOWN: The city’s civic leadership, representatives of football clubs, fans and the media met yesterday to map the way forward in the aftermath of the crisis that befell football teams here.
Currently no team in the city is competing in the country’s elite football division, beMOBILE Premier League. The only team that was playing in the premier league, ECCO City Greens, spelt doom for the city after it was relegated at the end of the league last season.
It has joined one-time premier league competitors TASC, TAFIC and Great North Tigers (GNT) who play in the dusty grounds of the Debswana sponsored northern first division league.
The poorly attended meeting held at the Civic Hall was convened by the mayor of Francistown, Sylvia Muzila tand was meant to get first hand information from various stakeholders of what could have led to the current situation and how it could be arrested.
Muzila expressed worry over the low turnout of fans to the meeting. She described the fans as critical stakeholders to the matter.
She said it is disheartening that currently no team from the country’s second city is playing in the country’s elite league while teams from peri-urban areas like Serowe have two teams plying their trade in the beMOBILE league.
She stated that the city’s Vision 2022 has identified sports as one of the avenues that can be used to diversify the economy of the city and as such it was embarrasing that no team from Francistown is playing in the elite league.
“I ask you to feel free to state what happened and ways that can be used to rectify the problem. I want the four teams in the first division to be promoted to the elite league next season although it will not be possible in one year since only two teams get promoted,” said Muzila.
The regional chairperson of the Francistown Regional Football Association (FRAFA) Jonas Ikgopoleng said teams in the city are faced with a number of problems ranging from internal politics within clubs, lack of sponsors and lack of grounds in the city which leaves teams with no option but to play at dusty grounds where they do not get gate takings.
“There is need for a paradigm shift in the way we do things. Let us stop being jealous and fight for positions at team level, but put the interests of teams before ours,” said Ikgopoleng.
The manager of ECCO, Robert Mokundi said the situation could be arrested if companies pledge to pay some of their players from their payrolls to ease the clubs the burden of having to pay many players.
His words were supported by the chairperson of GNT, Thebeetsile Motswaeng and a representative from TAFIC supporters club, Motshegofatsi Morobe, who pleaded with the business community to support Francistown teams because their current situation may worsen if sponsors do not come on board.
Motswaeng said the pullout of government from sponsoring some institutional teams compounded their plight.
“We need to change our mindset and adapt to modern times since football is now a big business,” said Motswaeng.
However, fans came with guns blazing with some saying that teams like TAFIC can regain their former glory if they are privatised.
They say evidence shows that community teams just like the cooperative movement in Botswana collapsed because they failed to adapt to modernity. Muzila said a lot of good ideas of how to resuscitate football in the city were discussed. She encouraged the members of the four teams to take note of what was said and implement the suggestions. She said they should also seek help from the Botswana Football Association (BFA).
Muzila, however, said she would do everything in her power to seek sponsorship for the teams from various companies although it will be a mammoth task since companies also want return on their investments. The mayor advised teams to put their houses in order because companies have reputation to protect and will not sponsor teams whose reputation is questionable.
However, I promise to sit down with the council hierarchy and see how best teams can utilise the stadium so that they can get more gate takings, said Muzila.
She said she will in the not so distant future call another football Pitso to see progress done and impediments that teams encountered with a view to solving them.