Not all have embraced the ascendance of Arnold Somolekae to the hot seat of chairperson of the Botswana Premier League. Social media had an overdose of mixed feelings about Somolekae’s sudden showing at the summit of the country’s most lucrative league. But one just has to meet and talk to Somolekae in person and appreciate that this giant of a man could after all withstand the pressure in the next two years as the supremo of the top flight football league.
Somolekae is the chairman of the beleaguered Notwane FC team, which avoided relegation by a slim margin last season, and is currently struggling to recuperate from the damage it went through at the hands of the former investor Gift Mogapi.
Somolekae knows very well the mammoth task he faces at the Premier league, considering how disgruntled a lot of people have been about the running of football in the country. He says the BPL needs someone with strong leadership in development and who can help the individual teams as well.
He is thankful that his colleagues agreed to his vision of transforming the premier league in his two years as the chairman. He didn’t waver when he assured that he believes he has the capacity to lead the league even though it is not an easy job, because he knows that the 16 teams are very competitive and as such require something that will transform them and make them better. “There are 16 teams and 16 chairs. Though some of the teams’ interests are only in them and their progress, I will do anything possible to make sure that the local league is pushed forward,” He said.
Somolekae believes the reason why things have not always gone well at the premier league is that things have not been done right, with the secretariat and the board members not engaging with each other well for the progress of the league. This he promises to rectify in his leadership term. He says as a leader he does not have a problem with positive criticism, but not the negative ones because all they do is damage local football. He urges the media as important stakeholders to make sure that what they report to the public is founded truth, not just mere allegations because they play a very important role in feeding people with information, and that most people rely in them and take whatever they say as the truth even though it can be misleading.
He says he will deal with backbiting among his team and greater stakeholders. He puts consultation at the top of his agenda which will ensure that he meets every member’s expectation and create smooth running of the league.
Somolekae promises stability in the premier league in order to create a very comfortable atmosphere and make it transparent. He says the clubs should not wash their dirty linen in public but rather approach the secretariat first for any issue of concern.
“Clubs and the secretariat should trust each other. The remedy is to have things done properly and to discuss things openly,” he says. In the past there have been a lot of issues surrounding the broadcasting rights and sponsorship of the league, but Somolekae insists he will improve in these areas during his term. He says the sponsorship issue should be dealt with so that teams benefit from that. He believes that at the moment it is not done right, since you will find that other teams sometimes do not even have money to go to a game and with players not being paid.
He says the way some teams are struggling is painful and believes sponsorship should benefit both the association and the sponsors but mostly the players in order to increase the quality of play. He advocates for teams to start benchmarking and have a solid relationship with other countries’ elite teams like in South Africa so that they have player and technical exchange agreements. He says as the new leader he wants to make sure that BPL meets with other top leagues so that they form cordial relationships. He says it is time the premier league was turned into a business model that can generate its own income so as to increase its worth.
The other important thing, he says, is to have structures that connect well, giving reference to the 1st Division North, 1st Division South and the Premier league because as far as it stands now it is like those three are totally different while they are supposed to work closely together.
Only two things were pending from the first meeting they have had as the new executive. These are - a report from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the financial report. The next board meeting is scheduled for 10th of January, in which after that they will have a clear map of the way forward.
He is sworn to discipline and will not tolerate corruption from his executive or the league. Perhaps one has to appreciate his day-time job as Court President at Broadhurst Customary Court – covering Broadhurst area up to Phakalane – to understand why he values discipline so much. He is seen mostly as a well accomplished man.
He slams suggestions that since he comes from an underperforming Notwane, he will struggle in his new assignment. He says the previous investor left the team in a very bad state and they are now on a rebuilding exercise.
“We started from zero and we are still gaining our financial strength. But we survived relegation and secured technical sponsor in Dlala and have a funeral policy agreement with Metropolitan,” he says.
He says they will continue to progress as a team, and knows that they will get results, adding that his appointment as BPL chairman will not in any-way affect Notwane as some claim.