As the first full football season since the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020 comes to a close, Botswana Football League chairperson, Nicholas Zakhem says it has been an odds defying campaign.
However, he admits the season has been soured by recent developments where the improper registration of Township Rollers player, Onkarabile Ratanang has taken unwanted centre stage.
Rollers were dragged before the Disciplinary Committee after the club was found guilty of improperly registering Ratanang. While the guilty verdict is out, the sentencing has dragged and the case was set to continue on Monday and Tuesday this week after several postponements.
Zakhem however, believes the season has been a success considering there was no play in nearly two years when the campaign kicked-off in October last year.
“I could say that we have defied the odds by playing without major hindrances though Covid was raging across the globe. We extend our gratitude to both the Ministry of Sports and Health,” he said.
He said there was competitiveness on the pitch despite the long lay-off.
“Teams honoured all scheduled fixtures and attendance was reasonable considering the effects of Covid.”
The season had a new addition, with the introduction of the Mascom Charity Cup played in Francistown in April.
“The charity cup saw teams, through their supporters pledge good sum of money through the voting process,” he said.
Zakhem said they expect a good end to the season as four teams are still vying for the Orange FA Cup honours. Gaborone United face the only remaining lower division side, Matebele while BDF XI play Security Systems in the semi-final encounters.
“As BFL, we are looking forward to a competitive and well attended double header semi-final and off course the final,” he said.
But Zakhem said the Ratanang issue was unfortunate as it had spoilt a ‘good season.’
‘I still can’t believe and accept that a great team like Township Rollers could stoop that low and do what they have done. To me it’s a de javu case of Nato. It is the same crowd and we need to stop such behaviour,” he said.
Zakhem added that he has been accused of unfairly targeting Rollers.
“I have been attacked by the same crowd directly or indirectly with various names to divert the attention from the culprits who are bringing football to its knees.”
Going forward he said it is critical to audit every player’s contract and stamp capturing during the registration of players.
“The Ratanang saga was indeed the low point of the season. The high point is that we completed the season as scheduled, also Gaborone United winning the league,” he said.
However, there could be more twists as Notwane is reportedly preparing to lodge a protest questioning the legitimacy of the campaign. Notwane contend Extension Gunners were not supposed to sign new players after the club was slapped with a FIFA ban until they cleared salary arrears owed to their Zimbabwean player, Kudzanani Machazani.