Botswana News

It is not spring but the cleaning has to start

It is way past spring, in fact, temperatures have started to drop as the winter season sets in. While the appointment came at the end of summer, the new Botswana Football Association (BFA) chief executive officer (CEO) has some spring cleaning to do, argues Staff Writer, MQONDISI DUBE

Football politics is viewed at par, if not above, national party politics. The mudslinging, backstabbing and character assassination permeate the football corridors with alarming regularity. These, amongst others, are the perfect ingredients to create a toxic environment, which have somehow become accepted as the norm.

Any attempt to change the status quo is usually met with disdain and in most instances, is bound to fall flat. Last week, football woke up to the unexpected news of a new Botswana Football Association (BFA) CEO. There was a collective agreement that the appointment was refreshing as it was a departure from the usual ‘jobs-for-pals’ approach. Goabaone Taylor is the name on most football fans’ lips after she was handed the task to lead the BFA secretariat.

Her appointment was a surprise as she was not publicly linked with the job; most people, including the media, were caught off guard for the first time in ages. To add to the excitement, Taylor becomes the first woman to hold the post in what has been a predominantly male preserve.  BFA, through Taylor’s appointment, appears keen to change perceptions and the rigid approach to recruitment. At last, a woman holds an influential and powerful post. She should be able to hire and fire if the usual football politics do not rear the ugly head. But the appointment of a woman does not represent the panacea to all football problems.

There is still a long way to go. The appointment is progressive in a world where equal opportunity employment remains a challenge. The appointment is not a just token to achieving gender parity, but a deliberate effort to take football forward.  Taylor comes across as a person who has the culture of corporate governance running deep in her veins.

She is an archetypal administrator and, at least from what is known, clean from local football shenanigans. Taylor probably remains a stranger to the deadly concoction mentioned above, of character assassination, mudslinging and backstabbing that has become the cornerstone of football. The assumption is that the BFA wanted a clean start; bringing in a technocrat or the perfect fit for the job.  For long, football’s revolving door has kept recycling more or less of the same characters.

Others were battle-hardened, known ‘ntwa dumela’ characters. It was a trait that was celebrated. The moment they walked through the Lekidi Centre door, their fists were clenched, and they looked for the first bout. Such characters have been hailed as ‘tough as teak’ or ‘uncompromising’ as they fit seamlessly with the invented description of football. The sport, described as the beautiful game by the legendary Pele, has lost most of its aesthetics, particularly in the boardroom.

Some of the beauty is probably found on the pitch where the silky skills are on show, but the boardroom has turned into a stinking, dog-eat-dog environment. From FIFA, through to CAF, all the way down to national associations, worrying tales of maladministration, abuse of office and the most common of all, abuse of funds, dominate the game. The departure of Sepp Blatter from FIFA was seen as part of renewed efforts to rid the game of its unclean name. But while his successor, Gianni Infantino has made efforts to put good governance at the core of his administration, concerns

over maladministration remain deeply embedded.

At CAF, when autocrat, Issa Hayatou was ousted in 2017 and Ahmad Ahmad took charge, hopes were raised. But hardly two years down the line, familiar stories of poor administration resurfaced. Sponsors have traditionally stuck with the game, largely due to its overwhelming appeal more than good corporate governance. However, in the midst of all the concerns, there is a glimmer of hope at continental level after South African billionaire, Patrice Motsepe ascended to the top post.

There is hope that with millions already in his bank account, the mining magnate will not become one of those interested in only lining his pockets. Motsepe anchored his campaign on good governance, and so did BFA president, Maclean Letshwiti. The two believe once there is good governance, the game would be able to rid itself of the many ills, and ultimately attract value for service for the sponsors.

As part of ensuring there is good governance, BFA overlooked several candidates with strong background in sport administration and settled for Taylor. She could be what the doctor has ordered. But already, she has received a chilling warning from her predecessor, Mfolo Mfolo, who, through a Facebook post, advised her to “sleep with one eye open”.  “You will obviously face challenges from both fronts, being the people you are leading and the board you are accountable to.

I am not going to shy away to say this many times. Some of the people you will encounter within football are actually enemies of football. The unfortunate (part) is that you will either be working with them or accountable to them. Sleep with one eye closed and your mind open,” Mfolo warned. Not that she was expected to fall into a deep sleep – the arms of Morpheus kind of slumber – but every night spent with one eye wide open would be too taxing.

But after she accepted the appointment, she was acutely aware that it goes with the territory.  BFA – or football – is not your ordinary terrain. It has undulating rather than flat surfaces. The ride is bumpy – at least from those who have taken the journey. In such a job, there is no par score.

She will either fall short or do exceedingly well. Her first steps would be crucial. She has to be calculating, and not let the ‘football is dungeon’ mantra occupy her head. She should approach it soberly and not look to strike the first blow. However, if the first blow is necessary, she must not be hesitant.  She has to succeed in her spring cleaning job if football’s image is to change. The new broom has to sweep cleaner if football is to retain or attract new partners. The days where the football environment is viewed as toxic should be banished to the dustbins of history. Over to you Mma Taylor!

Taylor’s brief profile

According to the BFA, Taylor has been Econet Media country manager where she led the commercialisation of the Pay-TV and free-to-air content platforms, implementing go-to-market strategy, driving brand awareness, amongst others. She also worked in the wholesale business arm of BTC, spearheading business development efforts.  She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in Marketing from the University of Botswana.

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