The Botswana Football Association (BFA) president, Maclean Letshwiti feels the recent criticism levelled against his leadership is unwarranted.
Letshwiti has had to contend with uncomfortable questions in recent weeks, with the lack of football action particularly dominating conversations. Local leagues have not been played since March last year, and the fans are growing restive. During the lengthy break, guns have turned on the BFA, with the leadership accused of dragging down the game of football.
But Letshwiti argues some of the issues, like the return of play are beyond their control. “Everybody wants football back, but people must understand that Botswana is under the State of Emergency and only the government makes decisions on what can be done or what cannot be done.
But from BFA’s point of view, we have presented a comprehensive plan by using CAF and FIFA standards and our conclusion is that it is safe to return to play without spectators,” he said. Letshwiti said the plan was presented and approved by the government for football to return in phases. “While we were about to start playing, cases started escalating and the government suspended sport for three weeks.
That is out of our hands. Government clamped down on a lot of activities, it’s not only football.” On the criticism over the delayed sponsorship talks, Letshwiti said if there is no football it is difficult to attract partnerships. “The question they are asking is when are you starting to play? They can’t sponsor us when we don’t play. Nonetheless, it is not the president’s issue, we should be working together to look for sponsorship and not criticise each other. But the bulk of the responsibility of sourcing sponsorship lies with BFL. They were given autonomy,” he said. “The BFL must be responsible for sponsorship that is why it is structured in that manner because the BFA did not have the expertise to source sponsorship. We felt, like what is done all over the world, the Premier League must be responsible for that.
They cannot point fingers at the president; it must be a joint effort.
Until we start playing football, we should forget sponsorship. They will only sponsor if we start playing. On concerns over BFA’s meddling in Botswana Football League (BFL) affairs despite the new organ’s independence, Letshwiti said the autonomy was not absolute. “The BFL is a commercial arm of the BFA. The autonomy only means they have control over running the league, and not football matters. Football matters remain with the BFA. They must concentrate on running the league,” he said. Letshwiti said there was never an agenda to use the First Instance Body (FIB) to trim teams in the league. Five teams were deemed not compliant with club licensing requirements and face the chop, unless if they succeed in their appeal. “It is nonsensical to say there is an agenda. Any team can grade itself. Club licensing is transparent.
Do you have money or you don’t have money, do you have a coach or you don’t have a coach? It is a very transparent system,” he said. “Besides, FIB is independent. It is composed of reputable people; advocates and lawyers. So it is an insult to the integrity of these people that they can be twisted, by adjudicating in an open and apparent system.” He, however, emphasised that Club Licensing was here to stay if local football was to prosper.
On accusations that he was autocratic, Letshwiti argued the buck stops with the president. “The president has to make sure the machinery works. I think we are working well together (as BFA NEC). I have not seen any animosity. But the vision should come from the president.” He said he is equally unhappy football was not being played but cited other activities like coaches and referees training were ongoing. On critics that he arbitrarily changes the constitution, “Look, there is a procedure of changing the constitution, so that is absolute nonsense". Is he concerned with accusations levelled against him? “It doesn’t concern me. I have made an impact not only in Botswana but also in COSAFA, CAF and FIFA. I am an accomplished football administrator. My concern is, the media can do better.
The media has a role to play. You guys cannot just criticise. What positive role can you play in the development of football? All you (media) do is to criticise. Football is for everybody, we all have to participate.”