With the elections of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) new leadership days away, The Patriot Sports team chose to settle a debate on who will win by picking their winners and advancing their case. MPHO DIBEELA throws his weight behind Mclean Letshwiti; OTHUSITSE TLHOBOGANG sings Solomon Mantswe’s praises while ONTAMETSE SUGAR insists there is still more Tebogo Sebego can offer.
Sebego; Deserves another term!
The race for the Botswana Football Presidency is a stiff one and a very interesting one to predict at this very moment. I choose to be on the side of those saying Tebogo Sebego should be retained in office. Even though there has been a lot of a controversy surrounding football in the country under his tutelage, there is no doubt that he is one intelligent fellow who if given another chance can take the local football to another level. He got into office in 2012 after he gained popularity and being adored by many as the fresh face that can bring changes to the local football. Even though under his leadership there have been things that did not work out like the appointment of Keith Masters as Chief Executive Officer there is no doubt that he is a man who owns up to his decisions and makes sure that he does whatever he has to do to save football.
He is in a good position to work out and address all that have been happening. Bringing a new person with new promises will not help out resolve anything. There are so many good things that he has done where under his leadership. We have seen tremendous structural change of the BFA structures like the introduction of the Block Reps in the NEC which is a better representation of all areas of Botswana. There have been promotional games to national leagues that are block based and it is through this system that we see the success of teams like Sankoyo Bushbucks (Maun), Kazungula Young Fighters (Kasane), Ghanzi Terrors (Ghanzi), Black Rangers (Tsabong) and now Skoon Boys from Charles Hill. He has made sure that women football is taken seriously and this led to the introduction of the National Women Football Committee as a full member with voting powers at the NEC. There has been mass participation of women and girls in football.
In his tenure we saw the value of the BFA sponsorship go from P8 million to about P24.5 million and companies like Debswana, Orange and BancABC all came as new sponsors during his term. There is no doubt that in the past few years the excitement around the premier league and the Mascom Top 8 tournament reached better heights despite the incidents that happened because of the Ofentse Nato saga this year. Both Be-Mobile and Mascom increased their sponsorship to record amounts. There have been a lot of changes at club levels as well. This also influenced the rebuilding of the national team and that improved its ranking. We saw the team qualifying for COSAFA semi-finals last year and finals in 2016. There is no doubt that they also put up a good showing in both the World Cup and AFCON qualifiers even though they did not qualify. Many a time people focus only in the elite league and forget about the structures that are below. One important thing that he settled was the issue of constituency league that was pending since 2007 and everyone knew that the issue was a realistic potential puzzle that could have led to the suspension of Botswana by FIFA.
Sebego also managed to resurrect the football league in Tsabong in which when he got to office it had not taken place for five years but now the league boasts of a team that plays in the First Division League. The area has over seven women teams. He managed to secure funding for restructuring of the BFA Secretariat and got the new structure developed and approved, and this will definitely turn around the fortunes of the BFA. He also pushed for the adoption and registration of the new BFA constitution sponsored by FIFA and this introduces constitutional governance reform and control mechanisms like Independent Ethics Committee, Electoral Committee, Audit and Compliance Committee and for a change the NEC will stay out of the secretariat and its operations matters hence better accountability. This will see the introduction of new positions and the empowerment of the old ones to meet the demands of BFA as an organisation and we have already seen the roadmap of BPL commercialisation. Most teams have now become employers, more investors are coming to clubs and the national Under 15 leagues have been were started. These without hesitation have been incredible developments that took place under the tenure of Sebego. It will be unfair to take him out when he has set out all these.
I believe he is the better candidate and it is very important for him to retain office so that he can continue with whatever that he has started. It can only be fair to take him out after his next four years comes to an end. There is no doubt that when he took office there was a backlog of issues that he had to deal with and despite the stumbling blocks that he faced, we can’t take away from the fact that he is a wise man who has surely learnt from his mistakes. It is because of him that most’s mind sets have changed in regard to football matters because of how he managed to stir things up. When he talks about football it is very clear his passion oozes out. We cannot say that he needed football to build his brand because he already had one. Local football needs him to advance further in the next four years – having learnt from the hard difficult lessons, he is more than ready to cruise the ship into new successes. The promises he makes are based on reality; not a wish to land the top football position as others are doing.
Mantswe; A steady, reliable hand
Among the three Botswana Football Association presidential candidates I would say Solomon Mantswe is the man best suited for this task. Looking at the crisis that has hit local football, BFA definitely needs someone completely new in office to turnaround things at the association. Mantswe is capable of this; even his experience in football talk volumes. He has been in football for a long time not just as a player but an administrator. Mantswe’s wealth of leadership skills are there for all to see. He is a police officer of high rank leading the police force’s administration department. To be given such a position in the disciplined forces takes a lot of hard work and proves that one is capable of doing the job. Apart from being a good administrator, he has proven himself at Police XI as the chairperson and has led the team well to its current high status. Of the three candidates he is the only man with a long term vision for the association. He and his team know exactly what they want to do for local football; they have set themselves targets to reach within a given time.
They, therefore, should be given the chance to prove what they have for local football. He has clearly stated in his manifesto that he does not claim to know it all but to work on improving on what has already been done. He acknowledges that others have done their part and does not play blaming games pointing accusing fingers. What the man wants is clearly to improve local football and produce tangible results. To do this, the administration has to work properly and Mantswe as a seasoned administrator is looking to introduce progressive governance and administrative reforms. As a police officer the man can surely run things in a transparent way with accountability as he does at his day-to-day job. Batswana have lost hope on BFA and it is important now to bring the integrity and credibility of the association back. This can only be achieved through an open and accountable leadership that Mantswe promises. The man is not fearful of being judged, hence attaching a timeline to his promises. For him to take a bold stance and say by 2022 if elected he wants to see Botswana qualifying for the World Cup shows confidence in what he is promising. He insists that they should be a timeline for delivering on every promise made. ‘This is how we should be measured,’ he insists. This will make it easy for people to rightfully label them failures if they do not achieve the target.
For a long time BFA has been hit by allegations of corruption, maladministration, factions and self-centred individuals. Mantswe has vowed to fight these and as an officer of the law he has all the abilities to unearth all negatives within. Self-centredness is a major problem killing the progress of local football. Mantswe acknowledges that for football to grow people should work together towards a common goal. He pledged to unify all various leaders and stakeholders of football to work together on the project of developing local football. This is what a leader should do; he should take the initiative, be proactive and not let things fall apart under his watch. Botswana football needs a man like Mantswe who realises that BFA lacks direction. For a long time it has been as if BFA does not have a structured development programme. With the bottom-up approach that Mantswe has in mind we could see changes in football. According to him, things need to be started from the bottom going up. For instance, emphasis has been placed mostly at senior team level leaving out grassroots development. With structured grassroots development programmes Mantswe is planning to address this. It is exactly what the country needs; to have a pool of players developed from a young age to feed the national teams.
Mantswe is trustworthy and has served local football with passion. His resilience is What BFA needs right now. Apart from the above he further has other programmes that might see football growing. These include the commercialisation of the national league. For this to be successful a lot of stakeholders need to be roped in. Having previously sat in the Botswana Premier League board as vice chairman, Mantswe has vast knowledge of what is needed. He also has the skills of courting sponsors as it has been evident at Police XI. With this all-round expertise Mantswe presents himself as a suitable candidate to lead BFA for the coming four years, not only for a change in leadership but also for progressive development. The other thing that the BFA needs is an authoritative person who will be able to command his charges. With all the alleged corruptions and self-centredness, BFA does not need a soft person. Order needs to be restored at all costs and for Mantswe keeping order is his every day job. Not that he will bring the Police force mentality to the BFA office but that he understands what it takes to bring order.
Letshwiti; A breath of fresh air
He is like a breath of fresh air to the game. He has never been involved at national football administration level before, having been the life-wire of Mochudi Centre Chiefs for years. He took the team from the melee of mediocrity to a championship side. Before his association with Chiefs, the team was a habitual pretender and not a contender for the title. He brought class, style and pride to the club – where players and officials all of a sudden started believing on their worth. He is a gentleman, and astute businessman – exactly what local football needs to move forward into the next level of commercialisation. A well-known corporate sector player that he is, he stands a better chance of winning over sponsors to the malnutritioned game. His grit and power; nonsense taker demeanour is what is required to institute discipline and the much needed professionalism to Lekidi centre and across all structures of the game.
Proactive: A stand out habit of a businessman is anticipation and planning for worse case scenarios so as to manage unknown risk. He will not just be diving head-on into football without having the master plan that sees him and the game through all.
Planner: While he will work with his team, it will be his leadership and planning ability that will be on trial. The buck stops with him. He will plan to win and ensure that he does not fall short on his mandate. Whatever he promises to be elected for; he will not fail to work hard at.
Resourceful: He is most likely to know where to get the money to fund the game. His business connections will come handy here. Resourcefulness will here result with him going outside the box to bring unorthodox solutions to some of the problems that have long troubled the game. As a deep thinker and strategist, he will
Believable: People in the corporate sector are more likely to easily to invest in his projects/proposals. He is part of them. He talks their language. And most importantly, they can trust him.
Integrity: You don’t make it big in business with a tattered image and integrity. He is bound to bring this strong element into the game. While most dismiss football management just as politics to be a dirty game, Letshwiti is bound to offer the game a direct opposite of that. In bringing his personal integrity, he will seek to cultivate this element more in all those involved with the sport to make it more attractive to sponsors and reverse mistrusts that permeate the sport.
Passion: He is not in it for the money or power: he is already powerful as a businessman. He has already spent vast resources on Centre Chiefs, for which he has barely gotten or expected any return. His is pure passion for the game. In it for the love of it and nothing else! He is sacrificing himself, his time and resources to bail out the game.
As he recently put it with a touch of arrogance in an interview with a local Radio station – local football needs him more! He offers what the game has yearned for; for years – a departure from a history constant failure and crisis to a new era of advancement and growth. He offers an era where problems are proactively handled and professionalism is not just past-time talk but a real new phenomenon. Having recently withdrawn his involvement with Centre Chiefs it means that he will not be conflicted and will be more focused on delivering football to a new level through a strong grassroot development initiative and inspiring leadership. He will not babysit the secretariat and interfere in every small activity but shall require and enforce a strategic secretariat leadership that is progressive and highly professional. This is man that local football has long required. Now that he has recognised that he is the long awaited Messiah, why deny him. Our football will go places with him. I rest my case!