Gilport Lions Chairman Kelesitse Gilika is a man at pains as his life-long dream seems to be going up in smoke. Gilika’s dream has always been to grow and take local football to another level. This saw him take over reigns at Gilport Lions to build on his dream. However, this week has been a very painful one for him as events turned against this dream at Gilport. The club parted ways with at least 15 players following financial impasse which has been a major setback to Gilika and local football alike. Left with only eight players on their books Gilport have been at pains to demonstrate how it will be able to honour the fixtures going forward. "We had 1-on-1 meeting with 15 players and we mutually agreed to terminate their contracts due to unpaid salaries. Currently we are left with only eight players and three of them are injured. This is a sad moment for me because i had a dream of taking our football to another level, and now is like i affected the lives of 15 players negatively as i was still on my dream,” Gilika declared. The players are said to be up in arms following failure by the employer (Gilport) to pay their salaries for the past two months. The players decided to boycott their game against Jwaneng Galaxy last week demanding their payments, which forced the team to go to Jwaneng with only eight players.
While solutions are still being sought to map the way forward, reports of possible club liquidation have popped up. However, the Botswana Premier League has postponed the two remaining Gilport Lions fixtures for this year to avoid any negative effect this can have on the league. In a statement, the BPL office acknowledged the events at Gilport, saying they have impacted negatively on the club’s ability to participate fully in its obligations to the league. As a result, the BPL office has taken a decision to postpone Gilport’s remain two games this year. “In light of all the above, a decision has been taken to postpone Gilport Lions remaining two matches to mitigate any damages which may impact on the Premier League and its structures,” read the statement. This is not the first time that Gilport experienced troubles of being unable to honour a fixture as the same happened last season (2016/17). In the said season, the team was embroiled in ownership matters that nearly affected the league. At the fore was the BMC society claiming that the team was unlawfully been sold to Gilport Enterprises. It all started with the ceasing of Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) sponsorship to the team. This resulted to the team sold to the Ghodrati family who in turn sold it to Gilika’s Gilport Enterprises.
The matter, which reached the court of law, however was settled out of court as Botswana Football Association (BFA) moved to mediate over the case. At the meeting, which was held on the 23th November 2016, it was resolved that the team’s name and status be transferred back to BMC FC. It was also agreed that Gilport Enterprises will help with the transition for it to go smoothly. This at the time was meant that the transition could not affect the running of the league. A year later all parties involved have been mum on the matter. Some nonetheless believe that what is happening now at the team might induce the matter to come up. Furthermore, football analysts believe that Gilport Lions developments might open a can of worms that could affect a number of clubs. It is reported that there a number of clubs that have a similar problem of not being able to pay their players just like Gilport. Some of these clubs include Gaborone United and Mochudi Centre Chiefs. What happened is seen as having a possibility of inciting other players to boycott games until their dues are paid. This happened with some senior players at Chiefs before but the matter was addressed quickly. Footballers Union of Botswana has moved to condemn non-payment of players having regard to the hardships they (players) endure as a result of not being paid their salaries.