FRANCISTOWN: Francistown football is in the doldrums and requires urgent attention to come out of the morass.
In yester years, Francistown clubs particularly TASC and TAFIC mixed it with the giants of Botswana football, vying for elite league honours. The two clubs won the 2001 and 2002 Coke Cup.
By then the two clubs were organised and whenever they played the city will come to a standstill. They were followed by other clubs like Great North Tigers (GNT) and ECCO City Greens who entered the elite league. Though GNT did not fare well, ECCO became the first side from the north to win the national title in 2006.
However in recent years, Francistown football has hit a rough patch. First it was TASC and GNT who were relegated to the First Division after the army and the police ceased funding the two clubs.
The two clubs have spent time between the First Division and the elite league in recent years.
TAFIC would later follow the trend. In the last seven years TAFIC has not enjoyed much stability.
Apart from spending time between the first division and the premier league, the club has faced lack of funds and concurrently, ownership battles raged within.
Efforts to privatise were also frustrated by infighting at the club.
ECCO has now entered the league of failing Ghetto clubs. It has found the going tough after losing their sponsorship from long-term partners Botswana Meat Commission (BMC).
The club is in the relegation zone this season, after finishing outside the top eight last season, for the first time in their history.
Relegation by ECCO will usher in another unwanted era in the history of Francistown football.
Supporters will now have to brace for dull weekends without their most source of entertainment ‘ premier league football’.
In addition all Francistown clubs have failed to retain talent and have now become selling clubs.
Notable talents such as Terrence Mandaza and Boitumelo Mafoko as well as Mokgathi Mokgathi started at TASC before moving to the south of the country for greener pastures.
Mafoko has had a stint at Cape Town Santos in South Africa while Mandaza is still playing in the SA premier soccer league.
ECCO lost over five key players last season to league rivals while TAFIC saw the likes of Obonye Moswate, Mosimanegape Roberts leaving two seasons ago.
All teams have blamed finances for their woes, but several solutions have been suggested in order to rescue the state of football in the city.
“Some of the big clubs in the city should consider merging in order to make them strong and attract sponsorship in a consolidated manner and make teams stronger.
“They will also increase their support base which will be used as bait to attract sponsorship,” Eatlametse Olopeng North First Division North chair Eatlametse Olopeng said when officially opening the Francistown Football Association general assembly late last year. He cited the example of Orapa United, which is a merger between various Orapa teams. Orapa United have looked much more stable since promotion to the premier league. Clubs in the area spent time between premier league and first division owing to lack of resources.
City leaders should also play a role in the revival of soccer teams. Just weeks ago when addressing the city council, city clerk Israel Lebuile said that Francistown leaders should engage the city’s clubs, to see how they can assist revive soccer in the city.
He said that football could indirectly boost the economy of the city.
Lebuile said that apart from entertainment various business people have earned profit from selling their goods particularly food during premier league matches.
He added that soccer could be source of employment to many young players if enough support is given to clubs.
ECCO vice chairman Mothibedi Latlhang said a lot needs to be done to address challenges faced by teams in the city.
“There is misunderstanding between companies and teams. When you approach companies they are not eager to sponsor.
“They do not think that sponsorship is partnership. They think teams are merely getting funds without benefiting them (companies).”
He also said that no games from Francistown are televised which presents a headache when teams try to source sponsorship from local companies.
“For example, we only have matches televised when we play in Gaborone which means that when we play sponsors will have to travel to Gaborone to place their banners or advertising material to earn a wide mileage through TV.
“This is not convenient to sponsors and is among the reasons some of them shun us,” he complained.
He also said that teams in Francistown should come up with strong strategies to attract supporters in a bid to attract sponsorship.
“The leadership of the city should also rise and be actively involved in the running of football and sports in general. They should lobby sponsors to support sports,” he added.
He also said that he does not oppose a merger of the city’s big teams provided there is a guaranteed sponsorship.