Lobito Patience Ncube caused quite a stir when she stood in the Botswana Football Association (BFA) National Executive Committee (NEC) elections as an independent candidate.
Typically, to stand a chance contenders contest as a part of a team.
However, the 38-year-old former Gaborone United (GU) Marketing Officer’s solo route proved an inspired turn.
Despite being a relative unknown in local football compared to her three more established opponents and having only confirmed her intention to run at the last minute, Ncube stunned the footballing fraternity.
After tying the initial vote 24 – 24 with Itsholeng Disang, the outsider emerged victorious in the re-run and was announced the BFA NEC’s Female Additional Member by 38 votes to 32.
The Voice’s Portia Mlilo sat down with the inspirational young football administrator to discuss her exciting new position.
Q. You went it alone in the BFA elections as an independent candidate – a move that has predominantly been resigned to failure in elections past. Why the solo decision?
Teams are just lobbyists but at the end of the day, each candidate is voted on their capabilities.
I knew I had something special that I could offer football and I convinced myself that, though I wasn’t part of any lobbyist, I could make it.
I worked on packaging my strategic message to the people, which was solely based on different approaches of making BFA more profitable and more fitted for the women and girl-child to find their feet within the structures of the organisation.
Adding a woman’s touch
I felt that being outlined the people would actually consider me.
Remember, there are some delegates who prefer not to be part of any lobbyists and they remain neutral therefore I gave them an option.
Q. Although you previously worked at GU, it’s fair to say you went into the elections as a relative unknown. Indeed, few gave you much of a chance! So what was the secret to your victory?
I was not known to some regions as most of the time I spent at the Premier League at GU.
To win, I packaged my message nicely and gave the regions what they needed.
I sat with them and understood that they focused on football management and lacked on admin and that is where I showed them that football can better position the lives of many.
Q. When the results were initially announced, you tied with another opponent. What was going through your mind during the re-run?
That was the toughest time as I have never been in such elections and having come that far was more than I had anticipated!
Being tied with Disang was inspirational enough as from there I realised that my message had reached the people and, had I not won, I would have still emerged a winner in my heart for the stand I took to run independently.
Q. Going into your campaign, what was your strategy?
My focus was to study each and every region and analyse the findings then recommend what each region can do to make football better.
I carefully did that and it really worked.
Q. So what does this win mean to you?
Football has to evolve, especially on the focus of women and girl-child involvement and participation across all levels of entry.
My election into the Women’s Representative position is not a personal victory but a victory for all women who are involved in sports, not only in the Football sector but other sporting categories as well.
My victory will be marked by the number of things I have managed to achieve or seen through from my bucket list.
Q. And what is the first thing you want to change?
Changing perception, ushering the women and the girl-child home into the football world.
For the next four years, we will be working on creating, improving and maintaining working conditions for the girl-child and women.
We call for mass participation of women and the girl-child community and the time is now!
Q. As the only female on the committee, are you concerned that you might be outnumbered when the decisions are made?
I believe football is a language on its own and if we are to deliver on our promises we will need to talk the same language.
I trust and believe that those who were voted and trusted by the delegates will surely put football first and together we will achieve more.
Q. There seem to be deep-rooted challenges in football in terms of gender equality and unfair allocation of funds. How best do you think you can address these issues?
We need to foster a common vision that will seek to unite national strategies and implement regulatory interventions to achieve growth through mass participation of women and the girl-child.
FIFA has invested a lot for the inclusion of females in the code and saw the need for federations to have strategies that will solely focus on women.
We have just received P5 million from FIFA because of our strategy as a special project so we can develop structures and programs for women and the girl-child.
What we need to do is stick within the outlined and approved budget for FIFA to aid in achieving our mandate.
I believe with that, their support and engagement will help shape our positive outcome.
Q. Although the stigma is not as strong as it once was, football is still widely regarded as ‘a man’s game’. How do you intend to further squash this perception?
Football is one of the greatest sports globally that can positively alter the livelihoods of many throughout various platforms of participation – be it that of a player, coach, referee, trainer, a fan, a sponsor, journalist or nation.
It is about time we amplified the involvement and development of women and girl-child participation in the sport, locally, regionally nationally and globally.
Having been in the background of the footballing industry and with over 14 years invested skills and experience in the marketing field, my participation at this level is to create and open pathways for mass participation of women and girl-child in the lucrative world of football while profusely breaking the stigma faced by the female counterparts.
This can be achieved wholly by working hand in hand with sports journalism in order to promote inclusive content to challenge perceptions and address gender inequality and empowerment of women and girl-child.
Q. The ladies senior national team are in South Africa for the COSAFA Cup, which kicks off on Tuesday (3 November). Considering their poor preparations – they never had a single international friendly – realistically, how far do you think the Mares can go?
Remember, we are living in the new normal and for now, our borders are still closed and our movements limited.
The team did play a few local teams and though we would have preferred international games it is beyond us.
I have also analysed our opponents – they have not played international friendlies either and their training also started at the same time we did.
Therefore, we do have a chance to come back with the trophy.
Going into the tournament that is our aim, to win it!
I have trust in the coach and ladies, they will really do us proud.
Q. Rumours suggest this could be the team captain, Bonang Otlhagile’s last tournament. What plans do you have in place to ensure she remains part of local football, especially considering her vast experience?
Like I said when sharing my message during my campaign, it is time we brought former women football players and administrators closer.
Even our male counterparts who are volunteering in women football, we ought to give them equal opportunities.
As for Bebeto, as she is affectionately known, we will have programs that will make sure she stays in the system.
Her passion seems to be coaching, already with a C-Licence in hand, it will be easy to channel her to the next available B-Licence courses.
She won’t be lost to football.
We have programs that will make sure all involved in women football will surely be part of it.
Q. Sounds promising – so who is your inspiration?
My family is my main source of inspiration, especially my siblings, such amazing souls who are thriving in their different careers.
We are all driven by the same vision to make a difference in our society as a way of giving back.
Our parents played a very significant role for us to be where we are today.
I have them to thank the most for instilling so much determination, discipline and independence in our upbringing.
Q. And what advice can you give to women who have an interest in football administration?
Once you have identified your talent, don’t sleep on it and let nothing stop you from achieving your goals.
Football is for everyone who wishes to participate at any level of entry.
Be invested in your passion and start somewhere, be it at the team, regional, or national level.
We intend to make sure more administration courses are run for all involved in all the regions. Help us lay a better foundation for your legacy!
Q. Finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
Well, we are already in the field prepping for our first COSAFA game against Tanzania the next day.
The team is in good spirit; I believe we might just sail through. Please tune in to SuperSport 1230hrs, we need your support.
Otherwise, stay safe and practice social distancing. PULA!