Gilport Lions are an embodiment of a refreshing and inspiring story. I am informed the name Gilport has been drawn from the man and wife owners. Gil being the prefix for Gilika while port is the first part of the wife’s name, Portia. The coining of the name itself demonstrates the seriousness with which the pair takes itself. Others would easily have been enticed by lofty English names with no direct bearing on themselves. Not the Gilikas!
And once that was done they went about the serious business of launching their brand to campaign in the highest league in the land. They bypassed the grueling task of taking the team from the lower divisions, where most give up after years of pushing for promotion. They saw an opportunity when the cash-strapped national meat producer – Botswana Meat Commission – announced that they would be disinvesting from what was their club for many years. At first the club was run by the Ghoddrati family of New Era College. Gilika waited strategically in the wings to take over when the Ghoddraitis gave up. And as fate would have it; there they are – owners of a top team in the country’s supreme league; something that many die wishing for.
In other so called major clubs disharmony in the Societies is the order of the day. Township Rollers, Mochudi Centre Chiefs, Gaborone United, Extension Gunners and all established soccer clubs are teams at war with themselves. Gilika has elevated himself to an exclusive pedestal of a few in the land. He fails on his own and manages on his own. The small petty fights from fans and committee members are not issues he is bothered with. In fact recently, a soccer fan sent out a sms to a local radio station asking for Gilika’s permission to set up a supporters’ club for his team somewhere in the north. These new fans come in knowing that there is a full owner of the team and hence the relationship is bound to be totally different from what prevails at Rollers and other clubs. Fans because they are part of Societies have tended to exercise their ownership of clubs at times in destructive ways.
Some blatantly refuse to account. Teams’ gate takings have become their personal takings and shout loud for their teams to win while stealing resources which are meant to motivate the players. It is for this and many other reasons that Societies have struggled to get sponsorships. Businesses don’t trust investing in institutions where there are no clear structures; at least in as far as accounting is concerned. It is no wonder that Gilport have just landed P6m three-seasons sponsorship. It is a brand that is untainted. No boardroom wars.
There were no faceless individuals claiming to be the more deserving owners of the club! The team is barely known. It is understandable that having had a bad start of the season the team is now in top shape. As the most resourced side in the league (P2m per season), performance was bound to improve. While other clubs barely know where the players’ salaries will come from at the end of the month, Gilport can pay them in advance, anytime.
The Gilikas deserve praise for this daring approach. Some would dismiss them as having been lucky but the question is what one does with that luck. Others would by now have through that fortunate to waste. I trust that even as these are just early days Gilika will be vigilant and unrelenting in protecting this great asset. A football club could be yours but as an entertaining vehicle it is owned by the people. It is for their pleasure. Work even harder to ensure your team grows into a massive national brand. At least you are starting on a clean slate. Congratulations and Good luck!