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MY WORD ON SUNDAY: Paul abused

SHARE   |   Sunday, 24 May 2015   |   By Mpho Dibeela

Lekidi Centre – Botswana Football Association (BFA) headquarters – developments could be astounding and shocking sometimes. This week provided a new low at the degenerating administrative levels at the centre. The association dragged a junior national team coach to a pre-arranged press conference to discuss team selection and readiness. It blew on their faces. The poor coach Pio Paul chose the truth than diplomacy – lashing out at the association for creating an impression that he was involved and agreed to team selection while he did not take any part. What complicated team selection this time around was the fact that there was a clash of national team activities with Under-23 team – coached by Paul – playing Zambia in Olympic qualifiers while the senior team play South Africa in COSAFA regional cup. From Paul’s stand and based on his utterances he was excluded in the selection of a team he had to coach to victory. What is more alarming in this whole saga is why the BFA Technical Director Benny Kgomela chose to organise a press briefing when he well knew that things were most likely to backfire because his office had not consulted well. The picture that emerges from his act is that he picks players for coaches. If he does not then, he has demonstrated contempt for Paul. He allowed the other coach to pick the best and leave the average for Paul – this is what this fall-out implies. It was definitely a blunder to call a press briefing – setting a stage for Paul and expecting him to tow the line. Coaches do not like to be undermined. They have every right to expect to be treated with decency. At the end the buck stops with them. They are the first to be crucified for a team’s disastrous performance. I take it that Kgomela roasts his coaches for their poor performance. However, in this particular case he has to admit – he did not act properly. Leaders cannot be expected to bully their way around and abuse those they command with impunity. They could have fired Paul on his arrival from Kenya, but it appears since he managed to advance the team to the next stage, there were no solid grounds to do so. To dismiss him now on grounds that he brought the name of the BFA under disrepute is not good enough. Paul obviously did not call the press conference, just as he did not select the players. From what one infers, even without having selected the players he was prepared to work with them. This comes out now as a well-choreographed set up to get rid of Paul. Whichever way one looks at it – it doesn’t stand and points to a huge administrative blunder. Even beyond that this clearly shows the little regard that the BFA has for youth development. Instead of doing all it should for advancing the junior team, and ensuring it prepares well for competitions, it oversees the team’s destabilisation. There is without doubt more to get from a purposeful development of the team than going with the easy opportunism of taking its key talent to the senior team when it is needed most at the junior level. Perhaps the BFA has given up on the U-23s overcoming Zambia to go to the next stage of the Olympic qualifiers, but to me defeatist tendencies will not take us anywhere. COSAFA Cup is for senior players and since the U-23s have a crucial game, all key players must have been reserved for it. What if the Zebras lose to Bafana Bafana despite all the players they have secured? This is a move that will haunt BFA for some time. At the end even Paul’s successors will be worried about the technical director’s interference in his work. If Paul could be dismissed I take it that the BFA Executive should get to the bottom of this matter and ultimately take action against members of the technical department who denied the coach his right to select his team.                

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