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Stripped bare

“Covid-19 has exposed football’s nakedness!” F.Radipotsane

It has been 12 months and counting since the last football league action in our playing grounds.

Sport was amongst the very first ‘casualties’ to feel the brunt when Covid-19 initially hit Botswana back in March last year.

Although the world is now a very different place, one thing remains depressingly similar: domestic football is still emphatically confined to the sidelines.

With the second quarter of 2021 weeks away, shrewd football administrator, Fobby Radipotsane discusses the impact of the corona scourge on football and what clubs need to do to guard against future pandemics.

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The Pilikwe United Chairman is a decorated administrator who has created legacies at clubs like Township Rollers and helped turn Tswapong Regional Football Association into a recognisable brand.

In a candid interview with Voice Sport on Wednesday morning, Radipotsane was quick to admit Covid-19 will leave an indelible mark on the country’s football history.

However, whilst he stopped short of saying it out loud, it is clear Radipotsane believes the pandemic could prove a necessary evil that brings forth a long-overdue change in the mindset of Botswana’s football administrators.

“Our players have been sitting at home for far too long. Some contracts were left with a year or two, so tell me what happens when football action finally resumes?” queried Radipotsane.

“Clubs will be under no obligation to renew their contracts. These players will be condemned to the streets,” he predicted, gloomily answering his own question.

Once regarded as a kingmaker in local football politics, Radipotsane warned that without a clear economic policy, the sport may never realise its true potential.

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“Landlords have taken back their keys and players are stranded; many have had their furniture repossessed!” he added dramatically.

Despite all the problems besieging football, Radipotsane said soccer lovers, and administrators in particular, can’t point an accusing finger at anyone.

“We only have ourselves to blame. We’ve been doing things the wrong way and Covid-19 has exposed us and bared our nakedness,” he said.

“Football has been in existence well before independence. When Francistown was still a bush, Tafic was already in existence, but today the club still doesn’t have a plot of their own. This is a recipe for disaster. There’s no how any team can make it unless they own assets,” insisted Radipotsane, his eye alight with passion.

Dismissing some of the so-called big local teams, Radipotsane said their situation is akin to someone chewing gum.

“It will soon lose its sweetness and elasticity. The reality is in Botswana there’s no difference between a premier league team and a lower division team. They’re both broke and don’t own anything.”

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Giving an example of Highlanders in Zimbabwe, he explained the club have a sports club and other facilities that can generate money even without football action.

“I’m not talking about sponsorship. I’m talking about multiple streams of income like lodging facilities owned by a club. The current set-up is unsustainable, the foundation is weak and the roof is leaking,” he said.

The Pilikwe United Chairman challenged fellow football administrators to help their clubs acquire assets, which will make them attractive to investors.

“A team with assets can be a friend with any bank or financial institution,” he concluded simply.

Big names in the footballing fraternity speak out on the current situation

Boitumelo Nsunge – GU Chairman

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There’s nothing coming into the club to sustain us. It is frustrating as players are not even training. Luckily for us, our players stay in one place and it’s easy to monitor them.

Mogomotsi Orapeleng – Notwane FC PRO

We are struggling to pay our players. We’re trying but it is not enough as there are no gate-takings and sales of merchandise. This is a depressing matter to most players who we fear might resort to other illegal means to earn a living.

Tebogo Toteng – Tafic SC Chairman

This is a very difficult phase in our football, but we have campaigns that we started in order to meet the welfare of our players. It is not enough but it’s better than nothing as we plead for football to return.

Gerald Mahumba – Gunners Comms Manager

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It’s a delicate situation that we find ourselves in. We recently embarked on a membership drive, and this has helped us to cater to some of our players’ needs.

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