At the start of the month, Goaba Taylor scored a spectacular history-making goal for women by becoming the Botswana Football Association’s (BFA) first female CEO.
Indeed, the 42-year-old is the first lady to assume such a role in the whole of Africa!
With league action confined to the sidelines for over a year, and the men’s national team on a disastrous run, Taylor faces a tough task to restore public faith in the beautiful game.
However, tough tasks are what the mother-of-four lives for.
Armed with an impressive corporate background, including managerial stints at Econet Media and BTCL, as Taylor tells DANIEL CHIDA in this exclusive interview, she is confident Botswana football will be a very different proposition when her contract as CEO comes to an end in three years time.
Congratulations on becoming the first female CEO of a football association in Africa. How does it feel to make history?
It’s exciting but I must confess it’s scary too. It is a lot of pressure, one, from the excitement and attention it has brought across the continent and secondly from the fact that there have been so many woman movers and shakers in football across several structures in football administration in Africa.
I’m humbled by the recognition but what is most important is to bring a positive impact into the development and promotion of football in Botswana.
Football is full of politics, how do you plan to counter that?
Football is in the hearts and minds of many people across the world and Batswana love football equally the same.
Where there are many stakeholders in the ecosystem, the expectations are high, and as a result, politics kick in.
It’s important to ensure the expectations of all stakeholders are adequately managed and this will require some form of multi-tasking and a balance of priorities to deliver in the interest of all stakeholders.
It is not about countering that but more about creating a balance for all.
And how are you going to make sure your hands stay clean?
The BFA activities are governed by the statutes of FIFA, CAF, COSAFA, and laws and regulations of Botswana.
These are important statutes that any effective Football Association should live by.
Coming from the Telecommunications and Broadcasting service industries, I am fully equipped to lead an organisation within these statutes, rules, and regulations.
So how was the job interview?
Not easy! This has been a process that was initiated back in January if not earlier.
Along the way you ask yourself if you will make it to the next stage and what it is that you need to prepare for in case, you do proceed to the next stage.
The interview process can be tricky in that the recruiter will keep adding more interviewers to the process and you really cannot keep saying ‘as I told them this is how I will execute the job at hand’.
One needs to keep the creativity and innovation alive so that they do not sound like a broken record at every interview stage.
What interesting/challenging question stands out from your interview?
The most interesting question that kept coming up was that of managing stakeholder relationships.
I can tell you now that the same question is still coming up in the development programme that I am currently on with UEFA Assist facilitated by GS
Academy and hosted by COSAFA, in Maputo Mozambique from 12 to 16 April.
The programme is designed specifically for General Secretaries of FAs to provide essential knowledge, tools, and networks needed to successfully and strategically deliver development goals for the Secretariats.
Football Associations across the world, it appears are plagued by the need to create a balance and prioritise the needs and expectations of the stakeholders, and this will remain a challenge for many years to come.
However, if one is equipped with essential tools, the initial job is almost done.
What is your mandate?
My mandate is to deliver on the strategic objective set by the BFA EXCO (NEC) and guided by rules and regulations of the General Assembly.
This touches on governance structures as directed and appointed by the General Assembly and the NEC in accordance with their roles and responsibilities.
My role is also towards the delivery of strategic objectives in line with policies set and defined by the NEC of BFA in line with FIFA, CAF, COSAFA statutes.
My mandate is towards the fans to bring back the love and pride of the game.
My mandate is towards the players to create player pathways that can continually contribute to the creation of national youth teams that feed into national teams for coaching and development as well as women’s national teams.
You are on a three-year contract, is that long enough to achieve all you want?
No. But I would like to have created enough pathways for the next incoming General Secretary to take over in case my contract is not renewed after the initial three-year term.
How are you going to repackage football so that it becomes an attractive product?
I will have to continually reflect on the mission and mission of the BFA to ensure alignment.
This will touch on the continuous assessment of the needs and wants of my stakeholders.
I will ensure that the marketing needs of the BFA are directly linked to the goals and objectives of the Secretariat.
Did your past job at BTC make you fall in love with football?
Yes. My attention to football was cultivated by the sponsorship of the Premier League by BTC through beMobile at the time.
Since then I have become aware of the activities of football and I never read a newspaper without going right to the back.
I have come from switching to another station when sport shows come up to wanting to hear public opinion regarding football activity in the country.
How will your past employment benefit you?
My experience at Econet media was all-encompassing as I was exposed to a wider view of managing a commercial operation that touched on promotion and PR, go to market and customer experience as well as selling of TV sports rights to broadcasters.
Domestically, football has not been played for over a year, what is your take?
This is an opportunity for the BFA to re-organize as we await the return to play.
It is a time to ensure all relevant structures, programs and policies are in place to support government efforts to enable communities to return to near normal.
The six-month state of Emergency might feel like a long time.
But once you look at what needs to be done before the league kicks off if all matters are declared and allowed, it is not a lot of time.
I would like for the association to use this time to be ready for the first kick-off once the ban/SOE is lifted.
This period is an opportunity for us at the BFA to rebuild and come out with an effective association once we return to play.
When do you want action to resume and in what form?
For what the BFA stands for, I wish I could say this weekend.
But for all that needs to be done internally by the BFA and externally by all stakeholders, soon and in line with the known football calendar would be ideal.
But because BFA does not operate alone, we will remain hopeful but most importantly work within the guidelines provided by the task force and the government of Botswana.
What is your take on the standard of our football as compared to other countries?
The standard of football across many countries in Africa can still be improved.
Some countries have done better than others when you look at the likes of Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and all.
But even with them, they still have a lot of development and governance matters to improve on to ensure effective development of the game.
Is it not slightly intimidating working in a male-dominated industry?
No. I have always been exposed to living, learning, and interacting with boys and I was in the technical wing of LOBSEC back in 1994 and this was made up of boys and only three girls for the entire senior school of learning.
How does your husband feel about your new work environment?
My husband was attracted to me as a strong-willed woman that is hungry for success.
He is very supportive and confident that as long as we create the right balance at home, my job will be half done.
What is your message to other women hesitant to take up leading roles in football circles?
All I can say is that there is nothing to fear.
We just have to bring our A-game as we would in any environment and ensure we are guided by relevant structures in executing our roles.
Unlike many other roles, football is in the hearts and minds of many and that is a big responsibility to ensure we maintain the aspirations of the players and the fan base. One does not have to be a woman to do this!
Getting slightly more personal, how do you spend your free time?
I spend a lot of my time with my family, but because I am an early riser I have time to myself in the earlier parts of the mornings and I use this time to exercise by going on a morning jog or catching up on local and international news.
I love cooking with and for my family and we spend a lot of time in the kitchen together.
Otherwise, we take trips to explore new places and experiences.
And I come back home to attempt some of the meals we would have enjoyed while traveling.
Finally, Thank God It’s Friday, how are you going to spend your weekend?
I will be back in the country on Saturday and I can’t wait to see my family.
But because there will also be an NEC meeting, I will be on standby to receive the outcomes of the meeting that may require my immediate action.