In football circles, he’s one of the most enterprising and shrewd administrators.
From the moment he was elected Chairman of Zebras Supporters Club in 2003, taking over from Gomolemo Motswaledi (RIP), Maokaneng Bontshetse has never looked back.
With a BSC in Advertising and Marketing from the Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island-USA, Bontshetse was credited with making the national team fashionable in the early and late 2000.
His unmatched knack for mobilising fans across the country and persuading the private sector to buy into the football fanfare quickly thrust him into the treacherous terrain of football administration where he has fought won and lost many battles.
His last painful defeat was last October when regions rejected him at the polls where he sought the first Vice President position. But never the one to stay down, even after such a bone-crunching knock-down, Bontshetse is back on his feet and ready to conquer football again.
Through his textile manufacturing business, No Error Manufacturing, and his brand Evolia Sports Wear, Bontshetse is set to make a mark in football merchandise.
With big names such as Gaborone United, Orapa United, and Nico United under his arm, the Tonota native is sure to leave an indelible mark in the beautiful game.
In this candid interview, the man is simply known as Max fields questions from Voice Reporter KABELO DIPHOLO.
Q. You’ve been missing in action since that humbling defeat at Thapama Hotel. What have you been up to?
Well, football does not end with being elected to an executive position.
I accepted the results and moved on.
I’ve always known that at some point whether I won or lost elections, I should step aside and focus on other things.
That is exactly what I did. I’ve been focusing on my business.
Over the years I’ve molded my life and career around football, and have always tried to find ways to industrialise the sport.
Q. Briefly take us back to your early days in your football career.
After graduating from the University in America in 2001, my first job was at Century Supplies as a Sales Person and then I joined Stanbic Bank as a Business Development Officer, and later Med Rescue International as a Sales Manager.
I, later on, started my businesses setting up Itekanele Health Scheme and a publication called Football Botswana.
Q. Yes, but when was your first real contact with the beautiful game?
It was first as a player.
I played for Tafic it is the only team that I ever registered for.
I guess being elected as Zebras Supporters Committee Chairperson is what got the ball rolling for me.
We managed to set up branches across Botswana and had funding from the private sector.
I remember at some point the committee gave incentives to the national team when they went away to play Tunisia.
I later joined the Botswana Football Association (BFA) Executive Committee as an additional member during Phillip Makgalemele’s presidency.
I later quit and formed Esportes Consultancy and for two years oversaw the commercial and administration on behalf of Mascom who were the Premier League sponsors at the time.
Q. You later founded the publication Football Zimbabwe. What happened to it?
Well, as I mentioned earlier I started with Football Botswana.
The idea was to go regional, with publications in Zambia, Zimbabwe, DRC, and Namibia.
But when the government hit us with the advertising ban in 2013 we could not sustain the business and Football Botswana stopped printing.
For the Zimbabwe publication, I had a run-in with the government when we ran a blood diamond advert.
Robert Mugabe’s government took all the 5000 copies and my team was arrested.
I had to go to court in Zimbabwe to have my staff released and after that, I just felt it wasn’t worth it.
Q. Following your loss at the polls, you resigned from your position as the FRAFA Chairman. Are you lost to football forever?
I was the Francistown Regional Football Association (FRAFA) Chairman from 2016 to 2020, and it was under my leadership that we managed to secure sponsors for the Women’s league and referees.
I had Jacaranda, Adansonia, and B&M Garments as some of our sponsors.
I’m still involved with football, as you might be aware I founded Tonota FC, which I recently sold due to financial constraints.
Q. Football politics is said to be the most fierce. Your take?
Wherever there are elections, there are factions, that is just normal.
The problem arises when factions turn into hatred.
If you beat me in an election, nothing stops you from engaging me, especially if you know my capability.
There’s a difference in ideology and My football career I’ve differed with a lot of Presidents I’ve differed with both David Fani and Tebogo Sebego but I’ve also worked with both of them.
I’ve always believed that football should be run by regions.
There’s no need for BFA employees to come to attend a match in Francistown when we’ve people in regions.
That is how you empower regions, by giving them these tasks.
Regional personnel should have opportunities to attend CAF and COSAFA games for them to learn protocols, that’s how you capacitate football people.
If your regions are weak, your football will remain week.
That has always been my stand.
Q. At some point, you were also involved in politics. You were touted as the next Member of Parliament for Tonota. What happened?
I had a very short stint in politics, but this is a different ball game.
Politics is not for principled people so I decided to leave politics to politicians and focus on what I know, which is selling and making money.
I’m a marketing person and I’ve no intention of going back to politics.
Q. Tell us more about your new venture, Evolia Sports Wear.
I started this business in 2013 with no funding.
I began with four machines donated by my father while my uncle gave me a place to operate from.
I knew from inception that this was a business that will grow slowly.
I wanted to build something that would sustain itself and become more appealing to clients.
To achieve that, I had to build a loyal clientele over the years.
We made a lot of mistakes along the way, but that’s the nature of business.
We’ve always targeted 2021 as the year we’d make an impact.
Our target is to partner with 10 Premier League clubs and 10 First Division teams by 2023.
We then intend to go regional with a particular interest in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and DRC.
No Error Manufacturing is also planning to build a factory because we want to manufacture our fabrics.
Q. Now let’s get a bit personal. Are you a family man?
Yes, I have two daughters aged 13 and 2 years.
I also have a fiancé and we plan to get married sometime next year.
I’m happy because my fiancé, who’s a lawyer by profession is also into football, She’s currently the Vice-Chairperson of the BFA Disciplinary Committee.
Q.Wow! Congratulations in advance. So besides football and making playing kits, how do you relax?
I spend most of my spare time with my family.
If I’m not, I join the boys for a few drinks.
I enjoy going out and mingling.
It could be at a local pub, and most of the time football dominates the banter.
Q. Thank God it’s Friday, so what do you have planned for this weekend?
I’ve to do some renovations on the workshop roof, and after that most of my time would be dedicated to Manchester United and football.
I’m also thinking of going back to church.
I’m a member of the UCCSA and haven’t been to church in a while.