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Local players' might play in England

SHARE   |   Sunday, 20 July 2014   |   By Othusitse Tlhobogang
Gabonamong and Mogorotshi Gabonamong and Mogorotshi

Bristol City Football Club is currently in the country for their pre-season tour ahead of the 2014/2015 season. Their visit creates an opportunity for local players and teams to benefit. While in the country the English side will play in the inaugural Botswana Friendship Cup against Extension Gunners before taking on the senior national soccer team, the Zebras.

Bristol City, who arrived in the country on Friday, will play the Lobatse side tomorrow (Monday) at the National Stadium at 15:30. Their second game will be against the Zebras on the 24th of July 2014 at the same venue. The English side from Bristol in England could have long come to Botswana in 2013 for their pre-season preparations but the arrangement was postponed to this year.

Bristol City is a community-run team, a model used by a number of teams locally and their visit gives the locals a chance to learn how best to run successfully through this model. Bristol City has been playing in England’s Football League Championship (local first division equivalent) until this year when they relegated to League One division. 

The team owner, Steve Lansdown, told local media this week that the coming to Botswana of Bristol City could open opportunities for local players to play in England. He said there is a possible signing of players who would impress during the tour. “Our scouting team is available and will be looking out for potential star players that can help the team go forward,” said Lansdown. He explained that his team is in Botswana so that they can share with local clubs the knowledge of how best to improve football.

However, Lansdown said they are not here only for pre-season preparations but also as a way of giving back to the community. Bristol City FC has brought with them 32 of their community trust staff and volunteers to provide mentoring to children in the community in and around Gaborone. In Botswana Bristol City Community Trust will engage in different projects with the aim of helping to develop and empower leaders as well as increase sport participation among children.  

Lansdown is not new to the country as he is the owner of African Emerging Venture and the Tuli Safari Lodge which are both based and operating in Botswana. This is why he saw the need to give back to the community he operates in. As a business man, Lansdown said the local business community could also use the arrangement to foster business opportunities in Bristol.

Extension Gunners Chairperson, Kitso Dlamini whose team will play City, is optimistic that this arrangement will help both teams to learn from each other. When addressing the media this week Dlamini however said they are not in this cup only for football but also as a project that can also improve the life skills of the community at large. He said this way the opportunity for Gunners to forge a long lasting relationship with the English club. “As you may know, Gunners is the only thing left to get Lobatse Township back life through football, so we will be looking to hold talks with Bristol City to see how both teams can help each other in the future,” said Dlamini.

If all goes according to plan, the lined up Botswana Friendship Cup could prove resourceful to local teams should they tap into the opportunity. According to Ronald Modikana of Kitso Media, the tournament will be held every year on the second week of July. Modikana explained that in future the tournament will feature four teams, two of which will be from Botswana while the others will be from England and Africa. Botswana Friendship Cup will grow to the like of South African Mandela Challenge Cup.
Botswana High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Roy Blackbeard hailed Bristol City’s coming to Botswana as a good move that could help improve sport in the country. Blackbeard called on other big clubs to follow suit and hold their pre-season matches in the country.