Zakhem speaks up

SHARE   |   Sunday, 19 July 2015   |   By Ontametse Sugar
Zakhem Zakhem PIC: RICARDO KANONO

 Last season was not the best for Gaborone United (GU) despite winning the Mascom Top 8 Cup. Boardroom politics dominated and proved to be a distraction for the club.
The club’s Managing Director Nicholas Zakhem, who was hailed as a Messiah when he announced lucrative sponsorship for the club, was turned into a villain and blamed for most of the things that went wrong with the club. At the height of the tensions, a plot was hatched – by some – to oust him.

Despite all, Zakhem appears to have prevailed for now. This week he had time to reminisce about his journey with the club so far. 

He joined the GU family in 2006 after being approached by two gentlemen namely Kelisitse Gilika who was the chairman then and Bashi Dlamini who was Zakhem's teammate for years at Swift Masters Sunday Football team. That was how his relationship with GU started. In the same year he agreed to sponsor Gaborone United to the tune of P90 000 per month bearing in mind that the season was half way and by then GU were occupying position 14 in the BPL log. They managed to pick up to position four by end of the season. At the time GU had other two sponsors – S&P Chemicals and O3 water. The following year he resumed sponsorship, increasing it a bit. Thereafter the Zac logo was adopted on all merchandise and replicas of the club. In the 2007/08 season GU managed to finish second on the log. In the 2008/09 season he was approached by the executive committee that wanted to privatise the club. They asked him if he was interested in buying the shares. “Thereafter the privatisation process took nearly two years and an amended constitution was drawn and adopted in June 2011 at GU AGM,” he recalled.

He said he has been aware of the claims circulating on social media and an article in one of the papers alleging the unhappiness of the elderly committee of the club and their wish to oust him and replace him with an Asian investor. Zakhem said after those allegations a meeting was held by both the former executive committee and the elderly committee who both distanced themselves from such allegations. “I wish to add that those rumours were generated by one unhappy supporter who felt side-lined and that person is known now in the circle of GU family. I could say it is an isolated incident,” he said. He made it clear that he did not favour or sponsor any faction in the recent club elections despite claims from some quarters. He said he has always made it clear to all that it was up to the supporters to choose whoever they wanted. He said he has employed 400 people, and only two of his employees were at the AGM as they are long time GU supporters, rubbishing reports that he might have bought some with money.

Commenting on their performance last season he said they always strive to get better in anything that they do since they know that they can never reach a ceiling in success. He referred to the 2014/15 season as satisfactory because they managed to win one trophy out of the two that the teams fight for in the season. He said he was happy for the results and are actually working on getting better at the moment since they have roped in a new Technical Director and a few new players. On what transpired with the players contracts like that of Tebogo Sembowa and Jackie Mothatego, Zakhem said there was no player contract problem but it was only disciplinary issues which he said were resolved. “Football is like any other operation, employees have to respect and abide by the code of conduct of the organisation,” he said.

He saluted all the former executives, players and management and the supporters who have always behaved well and respected other teams and followers no matter what was the outcome of a particular game. With the chairman position for BPL now open, Zakhem said he does not have anyone in mind to fill the position, but he is aware that the chairman doesn't necessarily need to be a club chairman. He said they need someone with knowledge in football, BPL, BFA, and FIFA rules, and a person with business orientated mind as football in Botswana is now adopting a business platform. He thanked their principal sponsor Old Mutual, adding that they would wish to have additional sponsors because the costs of running a team like GU are high and with little return. “Gate takings and sales of merchandise are not enough to cover club expenses as all our players and coaches are on full time employment,” he said.