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Crying out for COVID Relief

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Crying out for COVID Relief

BFA TURN TO GOVT FOR HELP

“There are lots of issues to look at. It is not only players’ salaries but also expiring contracts, transfer window among other things.” – BFA President, Maclean Letshwiti

Cash-strapped Botswana Football Association (BFA) has submitted a desperate P2, 234, 136 SOS to Government to cover the April wage budget for Premier League players.

With all football activities in the country grinding to a halt over a month ago, teams across the land are faced with a daunting financial hole they are struggling to fill.

As most local clubs rely on gate takings and merchandise sales to survive, the inactivity could prove terminal to some.

Although the BFA have already sent a much larger budget to the sport’s global governing body, FIFA, the request is expected to take a while to process.

Thus, in their hour of need, the association have turned to home for more immediate help as they seek to benefit from government’s Covid-19 Relief Fund.

In total there are 480 registered Premier League players, with all 16 sides boasting 30 footballers each. The ‘P2 million plus’ budget would cover their salaries for the month.

Speaking to Voice Sport this week, BFA President, Maclean Letshwiti admitted the majority of teams were already struggling economically before the enforced break.

Crying out for COVID Relief
LOST IN THOUGHT: Letshwiti

He noted some failed to comply with club licencing requirements and were finding it increasingly difficult to pay players.

“This is an emergency. We have to do a lot of clubs’ financial impact data analysis and time is not on our side. It is month end and players have to pay their rentals and other expenses. It is a process. We do not know when FIFA will assist because assessments differ per association member. We also have staff to pay and we make money when there is action.”

Sounding stressed, Letshwiti said the current situation was giving the BFA ‘sleepless nights’ but maintained his association were doing all they can to assist their affiliates during the lockdown.

“These are tough times that need everyone’s input. Our teams are not commercialised. If they were all registered as companies they could be benefiting from the BURS Relief Fund, which would cover players’ wages,” the President pointed out.

Highlighting the BFA’s present predicament, Letshwiti explained there were other, more complex concerns to consider on top of how to pay the players.

“There are lots of issues to look at. It is not only players’ salaries but also expiring contracts, transfer window among other things. The obligations placed on the parties will potentially be made impossible.”

Letshwiti further warned there was no guarantee the league – two-thirds complete with ten rounds of fixtures remaining – would resume.

“We are not even sure if this season will be finished. We might find ourselves starting afresh next season. We are dealing with something unprecedented and do not know when a cure will be found and our lives get back to normal.”

With the season set for a thrilling climax – separated by just five points, all of Jwaneng Galaxy, Township Rollers, Orapa United, Security Systems and Gaborone United are realistic title contenders – cancelling the league would be the latest body blow to the country’s long-suffering football fans.

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Daggers drawn for BFA top post

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Daggers drawn for BFA top post

Uncertainty over the looming Botswana Football Association (BFA) elective congress was finally cleared this week when the Electoral Committee announced 8th of August as a date for the d-day.

The BFA elections were left in limbo since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the subsequent suspension of all football matters.

Briefing the media this week, board chairperson Moemedi Leina said since the elections will be held in the middle of a State of Emergency the elections board will be guided by the Covid 19 Task Force.

He said citizens aged between 30 and 75 years and without any criminal record can begin submitting their names for possible election starting on the 1st to the 12th of June.

Battle for the BFA’s top post promises to be a bare knuckled contest, with four prominent figures already looking set to throw their names into the hat.

Incumbent, Maclean Letshwiti will face stiff competition from former BFA president Tebogo Sebego, politician Boyce Sebetela and former BFA Chief Executive Officer Ookeditse Malesu.

The four potential candidates are already canvasing for votes across regions, and attempting to sway delegates to their sides.

While few have publicly stated their intention to stand for elections, Francistown Regional Football Association Chairperson Maokaneng Bontshetse has long declared his candidature for the Vice President 2 position.

Bontshetse, a shrewd sports administrator is one of the longest serving football servants in the country.

He prides himself as the founder of the Zebras Supporters Club.

Letina has however advised potential candidates that there are certain requirements they must meet in order to be eligible.

He said candidates should be active in football structures and not be insolvent.

“We’re also not going to allow people from other sports codes. The committee will vet from June 22-29 and publish candidates’ names on June 30,” he said.

Letina further said they will then allow for appeals or queries for the next two weeks before publishing the final list on 23rd July.

“During the appeals period, we’ll simultaneously compile and prepare a voters roll. This year there will be no elections in the regions after the General Assembly resolved that regional committees will run for four years, which means their terms ends in 2022,” said Letina.

Meanwhile the association Chief Executive Officer Mfolo Mfolo said their medical team is working round the clock to prepare for the return of football action.

Last week Ministry of Sports approved the resumption of football activities operations for the premier league and first division games from the 1st of June.

Mfolo said the medical team is to submit the final guidelines to the BFA National Executive Committee so that teams can start competitive football.

He said there are certain Covid-19 regulations they need to adhere to.

The league is left with 13 games to complete the season.

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Montsho left in limbo

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Montsho left in limbo

Aging star’s dream end fading

Having carried the baton for Botswana athletics for over 16 years, the country’s greatest ever female runner, Amantle Montsho targeted a fairytale ending to her career at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

And then Covid-19 came along and ruined it all.

Rescheduled to August 2021 in light of the deadly pandemic, the Games could prove a year too far for the aging 400m star.

Montsho would be 38 by then and although her heart is willing and her body healthy, 15 months is a long way away.

It is a cruel blow for the Maun born athlete, who had worked incredibly hard to get back into the shape required for Olympic qualification – a feat she managed at a University of Botswana Athletics Club meet back in March.

“My target was an Olympic medal. I had trained very hard to win a medal. This was supposed to be my last competition. I believe I have done my part in sports and it is time to quit!” said Montsho, whose 2011 triumph in Daegu, South Korea, remains Botswana’s only Gold medal at the World Championships – a title she narrowly missed out on retaining two years later in Moscow, piped to the finish line by Great Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu by less than a hundredth of a second!

Indeed, for the two-time Commonwealth Champion an Olympic medal remains the only thing missing from her resume. Agonisingly, 0.03 seconds was all that stood between Montsho and a Bronze medal at the London 2012 Games.

Suspended for the last Olympics, Tokyo was to be Montsho’s fourth games – a record for a Motswana athlete – and a last shot at Olympic glory.

Speaking to Voice Sport on Tuesday, she ruefully admits that might not be possible.

“I still have to talk to my coach and see if I will compete next year since I have qualified. It has not been easy during lockdown; at least now we have hope since the Minister of Sports has announced resumption of individual sports,” said the frustrated sportswoman, who is famous for keeping her emotions to herself.

With her future once again cast in doubt – she had set her heart on retiring last year only for the Botswana Athletics Association to convince her to continue – it would be a sad, unfitting end to a career that has brought much pride to the country’s sport loving citizens.

However, as her opponents have discovered many times in the past, you write Botswana’s diamond off at your peril!

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