Youthful Gaborone Mayor, Kagiso Thutlwe, suffered humiliation and embarrassment last Saturday before multitudes of football lovers when security guards manning access to the Grand stand at the National Stadium, which also houses the VIP facilities, refused him entry. It was only after the intervention of a Good Samaritan, who persuaded the no-nonsense guards to let Thutlwe and his female companion into the stand, that the couple was relieved amid giggles from spectators watching the spectacle. The Mayor – spotting an overgrown beard that has become part of his prominent facial features together with a generous smile that recently caused a stir on social media – waved to the crowd in the stands, who were shouting KG, Ratoropo, Mong wa rona, as he made his way to the VIP section with the partner on tow just moments before kickoff of the CAF Champions League fixture in Gaborone between Township Rollers and Al Merrich of Sudan. But Thutlwe was not the only one frustrated. He had joined a group of spectators who were denied access to the Grand stand by the same guards, who insisted that they were instructed that only people producing P200 tickets should be admitted to the middle stand.
This, notwithstanding that outlets selling tickets for the game did not have any ticket for that much. They were only selling three sets of tickets being P100 for Grand stand, P50 for Panda stand on the East, and P30 elsewhere. Even at the main entrance to the stadium there was no requirement for the P200 VIP ticket, which the stubborn guards insisted the grand stand had been designated. To compound the confusion, there was no official from the host, Township Rollers management, to resolve the stand-off as frustration grew among spectators gathering at the gate minutes before the game started. It was only after the intervention of Phempheretlhe Pheto – the team spokesperson – who was passing by to attend to the nearby PA system, that the security guards allowed spectators to enter and take their seats. Over half of the seats in the middle stand had remained vacant as tension built up at the gate. Pheto was equally surprised that spectators were denied entry despite that the stand being almost empty. He advised the guards to refer anybody who complained about the instruction to admit spectators into the grand stand to him.
The ticketing problems are not new to sports facilities in Botswana and the host teams. A ticketing company engaged by BPL for BTC Premier League fixtures has had its contract withdrawn after teams expressed serious misgivings about their services. About three weeks ago a Township Rollers game was nearly abandoned when confusion reigned supreme over the same issue of tickets. Hundreds of spectators that had thronged UB stadium for the afternoon encounter were thrown from pillar to post after they were promised that tickets will be available at the entrance. Violence almost erupted as fans forced the gates open while others climbed over the perimeter walls to gain access to the stands to watch the game. Apparently the ticketing company had underestimated the turnout and failed to bring suitable equipment to produce sufficient tickets at the stadium. Township Rollers spokesperson Phempheretlhe Pheto however said what happened was just a misunderstanding. Pheto said the middle stand on the west side of the pitch was reserved for VIP, hence the presence of security guards while the other two on its either side were the grand stand. He explained that the VIP stand required a P200 ticket for one to enter while the other two were costing P100. “Only with the P200 tickets were allowed into the VIP stand and those without were denied entry,” he said. The confusion was however resolved after some time. Supporters however decried late communication about tickets saying there were no P200 tickets sold at the outlets and no timely announcement was made about them. The ticketing issue remains a hot potato in local football as almost this is experienced at almost every game.