• Sebego has failed in his four year term – Letshwiti
• Rival candidates making false claims, easy to make assumptions outside looking in – Sebego
• Sebego has lost control of the NEC, his time is up – Mantswe
The battle lines for the highest position in local football have finally been drawn, Botswana Football Association (BFA) presidential rivals Tebogo Sebego, Solomon Mantswe and MacLean Letshwiti all took part in a historic televised presidential debate whereby they all stated what they would do to improve the association’s fortunes if elected on July 30.
Normally, presidential debates are created for aspiring candidates to utilize the specially organized forum to paint a picture of what each of them will do to improve the fortunes of the institutions they are aspiring to spearhead, the candidates did just that but the debate became somewhat of a finger pointing exercise at times. The first candidate to take shots was Letshwiti who stated that local football had lost its integrity, he criticized what he perceives as football hooliganism.
“I want to bring back trust, respect and dignity into the game. Football is in a terrible state. We have lost seven to eight sponsors of the BFA in the past four years. FNB (sponsoring grassroots level), BancABC (national team), Orange (national team) have left and BTCL (league sponsor) is on the verge of leaving. I do not want fame, I already have it, I am an accomplished corporate leader and a result orientated person. I will use funds wisely and my usage of money will reflect accountability, my main aim is to pump money into development structures,” said Letshwiti.
“Development is key, that will be strengthened through commercial partnerships and hiring qualified coaches. I want the association to know why it exists. We do not have a credible feeder team for the senior national team. Football should be turned into an industry. The president (Sebego) has given nothing but excuses. What has he done in four years? He has failed,” Letshwiti added.
In response Sebego stated the following, “It is easy to make assumptions from outside looking in, the claims and criticism levelled at me are false and misguided. We have not lost sponsors, we are still negotiating with Orange, BancABC and Debswana. I am responsible for bringing the BancABC and Debswana sponsorships. BTCL has instructed us to put our house in order, they have not left. I inherited the BFA when the association was in debt, sponsorship revenue has improved from P8 million to P24 million under my leadership. The problem is our constitution, it has to be amended and new structures within the BFA will be put in place.”
“It is easy for my candidates to talk about development but in order for that to be successful, committed people need to be put in place. We have set up a new ethics committee to oversee credibility checks to see whether or not recruited people are fit to be in their positions, that will improve us a lot. The new strategic plans will prompt sponsors into action,” the incumbent BFA president continued.
Mantswe started his introductory speech by congratulating Sebego for the national team’s silver medal at the COSAFA Castle Cup and the “progressive constitution”.
“I want to be in the top position because I have a passion for football and I want to serve football in this position. The plane (BFA) has crashed, don’t just blame the pilot (Sebego), maybe there might have been terrorists on the plane, we have to find the black box (identify the problem). Our football has a problem, sponsors do not trust us. Sponsors are reluctant to give us prize money because of the uncertainty in our football, this will make day to day operations difficult for clubs. The president has also lost control of the country’s driving football force, the NEC, he says he is being sabotaged. If he loses control of his ‘dressing room’, he must give way for a new person. By his own admission people do not want to work with him, the fingers are pointing towards him. I can make a difference, my team will make a difference and we are transparent. Our team is a credible alternative, we want to work closely with the government on our projects, the Botswana Premier League also has to be autonomous, we have credible and qualified people to run the league as an independent entity. The NEC’s only function is to sign contracts that we, the BPL, negotiated. If the BPL ran its own affairs we would not have pending cases that have held us up at the moment. The president (Sebego) has rejected the BPL’s autonomy plans. The BPL can deal with its own problems,” Mantswe stated.
All three candidates have one thing in common, more questions than answers
All candidates painted good pictures of what they can offer if elected, in many ways they have promised a bed of roses to their voters, however, every rose has its thorn and the three candidates left onlookers and voters with more questions than answers after the debate. Problems that still exist in football include match officials’ welfare, women’s football, Constituency tournaments and political interference.
The candidates did not touch on the problems facing women’s football; the women’s premier league has struggled to find sponsors in recent years, although the league has been running on its own at times, they still have difficulties of attracting more sponsors and turning their league into a money spinning one like their male counterparts have done.
Match officials assigned to women’s football are often unpaid, sometimes the league depends on those acting on the spirit of voluntarism to officiate the games. They have little or no television coverage as a result of not having a television rights deal or a properly supported league structure. The three candidates never made any detailed plans about improving the state of women’s football.
The BFA is under FIFA’s microscope when it comes to constituency tournaments that are facilitated by the government. FIFA deems the government’s initiative as interference unless they hand over the reigns to the BFA to control the tournaments.
None of the candidates touched on the burning issue that could have crippling consequences on the BFA if FIFA imposes sanctions on them. All candidates are aware of FIFA’s stance on what they deem political interference but they did not address it. With 18 days left before election day, all candidates still have a chance to fully outline their plans.