The dream to enhance football development in the country was this week given a major boost after retail giant Choppies unveiled P3.7 million for Botswana Football Association’s (BFA) Elite Youth Development programme. Choppies CEO Ramachandran Ottapathu announced the mouthwatering sponsorship deal, saying it was a long term programme which will make sure football develops in the country. He said they saw it fit as Choppies Group to come on board to further the initiatives of the BFA. He highlighted that working hard on youth development will lead to many young Batswana breaking into the world’s highly rated leagues. Recently a young U-17 Botswana player got admitted into a Brazilian football academy where he will be learning from the best. This, according to Ramachandran, could be an opportunity for more young players if youth development is supported sufficiently. “I did not believe it at first when Letshwiti came to me talking about this but now that I am seeing the results so far I believe him,” he said. It has always been BFA President Maclean Letshwiti’s dream to improve youth developmental structures within the association. During his campaign this was one of the top agendas he had. Letshwiti said the money that Choppies has given will go towards football development teams that include the boy’s U-15, U-17 and U-20. Letshwiti, who could not hide his excitement, said he is confident that the BFA elite youth development programme will bear fruits in the near future. He thanked Choppies for coming on board as the Official sponsor of the youth development teams, saying it will help building the future of local football. “The reason why we put emphasis on youth development is that it ultimately helps in improving the pool of players and their depth. This will result in improved performance of our national team,” he said.
The BFA president said he is confident the elite youth development programme they are running will bring good results. “I am calling it elite youth development because our model has excited even FIFA. This will bear fruits as it will be put to test also by the Germans who will be doing its monitoring and evaluation,” he said. Letshwiti revealed that BFA is about to conclude negotiations with some European partners who will set up a football academy in Botswana so that players from this programme can go through it. He said negotiations are at advanced stage. Though he acknowledged that corporate governance at BFA is a problem, Letshwiti assured Choppies that the money will be put to intended use. He said they are currently cleaning the association and ultimately it will be free from those who oppose progress. “What you have read on the papers is not by chance but it is the sign as we continue to cleanse the association,” said the determined Letshwiti. In order to further improve football in the country Letshwiti called on other corporate companies to follow the example that Choppies has set. The other aspect of football development that needs attention is women football. Letshwiti said strides were being made to get a sponsor for it. Choppies’ entrance to youth development comes after sport commentators had been up in arms criticizing companies of neglecting development. The commentators condemned companies, saying they only want to be associated with players when they have already made it. The discourse was that the companies have to start with the athletes while they are still young and grow them. Choppies’ move has therefore been received well and more companies are expected to follow suite to develop players from a young age.