Africa-Press – Botswana. Despite a few success stories under extremely difficult conditions, the football fraternity will abhor 2020 for the way it clipped everyone’s wings, starving football fans of action for almost the whole year. Mmegi Sport scribes, BOITUMELO KHUTSAFALO and KABELO BORANABI round up football headlines that best sum up the year from hell
Letshwiti retains his seat at the BFA
The Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership faced its most difficult test since it assumed the office in 2016 when Botswana like many other countries experienced the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Amongst some of the difficult decisions that the BFA leadership had to consider was how they are going to go about their annual general assembly. BFA president Maclean Letshwiti and his executive committee found themselves between a rock and a hard place. The COVID-19 protocols strictly stipulated that no meetings of more than 50 people were to be held. On other hand, they faced uproar from the football fraternity if they considered postponing the much-awaited assembly, which was also an elective year. In the end, after postponing the event from the initial date, the BFA managed to hold a successful virtual assembly. However, the events leading to the assembly never fell short of controversy. The three camps vying for BFA leadership positions had been throwing light jabs at each other, but things nearly threw local football into a halt when the electoral board vetted out both Tebogo Sebego and Ookeditse Malesu. The decision left Letshwiti as the only presidential candidate going into the elections. Both Malesu and Sebego appealed the decision and succeeded. In the end, it was a battle between Sebego and Letshwiti with the latter eventually prevailing after a runoff.
COVID-19 mars FUB’S 10-year celebrations
It was supposed to be a year that the Footballers Union of Botswana celebrates a milestone. Several activities had already been lined up for the union’s 10-year anniversary, but COVID-19 showed up uninvited and ruined everything for the union that represents players’ interests. As part of the celebrations, the union had opened a poll with supporters voting their favourite Zebras legends, which would play a friendly match against African legends. As part of the celebrations, FUB was also scheduled to host the International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPro) Africa Congress for the first time since its inception. However, with travel restrictions and protocols limiting the number of gatherings, all the activities have since been postponed until the situation normalises. Despite the initial resistance from the mother body when the union first came into the scene, it has so far been successful in ensuring that there is a cordial relationship between the players and their clubs.
BPL finally becomes autonomous
On the positive side, the long wait for the Botswana Premier League (BPL) to be autonomous finally came to an end when the Botswana Football Association (BFA) general assembly unanimously agreed on the matter. For many years, BPL sides have argued that for their growth, the structure, which runs the league competition, should be granted an autonomous status. The BPL has been yearning for autonomy, but remained under the shadow of the mother body, BFA, and has not been able to negotiate its contracts. Their wishes were granted when the general assembly agreed to hand both the elite league and the First
Division autonomy. The structure has been admitted into the BFA as a special member with a new name, Botswana Football League (BFL). As it stands, the structure is allowed to source its sponsorships and cut deals without seeking the approval of the BFA as in the past when the mother body was the signatory of all BPL deals. A private company running under the name Botswana Football League (Pty) Limited has been registered, which will run the affairs of both the elite league and the First Division.
Zebras play on an empty stadium
History was made this year when the Zebras played an official match inside an empty stadium, thanks to the COVID-19 restrictions. Following an away fixture to Zambia in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers, which was also played in an empty venue, Zebras hosted Zambia in the second leg in Francistown. The Obed Itani Chilume Stadium has for years been used as Zebras hunting ground because of the passion and support of the fans. However, for the first time in history, Zebras had to endure 90 minutes of action without their loyal fans. The result, however, came out positive as Zebras registered a 1-0 win to move from the bottom of the group.
Mares reach COSAFA final for the first time
In a very impressive showing, the Mares reached their first ever final in international competition when they finished as runners up in the COSAFA Women’s Championship in November. The team has over the years shown improvement since their international debut in 2002 that ended with a 14-0 defeat to South Africa. The pair met in Port Elizabeth where Banyana Banyana came out as 2-1 victors. This is team’s best ever performance at any competition. Prior to the final, the Mares had just conceded one goal at the tournament. The team had come close in the last year’s edition of the tournament but were knocked out in the semi finals by Zambia and will be surely looking to make it one step better in the next edition.
Galaxy lands first ever league championship
Jwaneng Galaxy were crowned league championships for the first time after the 2019/2020 football season was stopped due to the outbreak of Covid-19. Galaxy were just a point ahead with an average of 10 games left to play when the league was declared over. The unpopular decision, saw Galaxy landing their first ever league title while securing a maiden CAF Champions League place.
Botswana gets the boot for age cheating
In a first in the sport scene, Botswana was invovled in an age cheating scandal. The Under-17 boys team was qualified from the African under-17 Nations Cup and the COSAFA Under-17 Championship. This was after players failed the Magnetic Resonace Test (MRI), which is mandatory for all participating teams to ascertain players’ ages. Botswana was disqaulfied alongside, Zimbabwe, Comoros and eSwatini in the region’s biggest age cheating scandal. The disqualification saw the then Botswana Football Association (BFA) secretary general, Mfolo Mfolo fired.