The recent withdrawal of beMOBILE Premier League defending champions, Mochudi Centre Chiefs from the CAF Champions League has rekindled the call for local clubs to be assisted to compete in Africa.
Chiefs are the latest club to taste the bitter pill served by Botswana National Sports Commission’s decision to stop funding local teams’ participation in Pan-African competitions. Chiefs had been complaining about lack of funds to honour their CAF Champions League fixture against Club Maxican of Mozambique before eventually withdrawing from the competition recently.
In the past seasons, sponsors for different main competitions - the league and FA cup – partly financed the clubs when they participated in the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederations Cup respectively. The last time the BNSC funded a team was three seasons ago when they funded the then league champions - Centre Chiefs - to the tune of P50 000 while league sponsors beMOBILE injected P250 000 to enable them to travel to Mozambique for their preliminary qualifier where they played to a goalless draw and later won by a solitary goal at home to progress to the next stage.
They then met Congolese side TP Mazembe in the next round of the competition where they were eventually booted out after two legs. Although Chiefs did not qualify for the group stages after succumbing to Mazembe, the financial spin-offs from their participation in Africa’s premier competition were historical. They managed to successfully sell three of their prized assets - Dirang Moloi, Phenyo Mongala and Jerome Ramatlhakwane - to Mazembe’s sister club Don Bosco. Chiefs’ investment through a CAF competition was only preceded by BDF XI, who had earlier sold Modiri Marumo to Egyptian League club, Haras Alhadude.
At national level the technical team that participates in these Pan-African competitions also tends to acquire the requisite experience by playing different opponents. The same is also true for the players.The bulk of players who form the national team come from clubs that win either the league or premier cup, which each give the ticket to the CAF competitions.
This year, Chiefs and Mascom Top 8 cup winners Gaborone United were expected to traverse the African continent to try their fortunes, but only United have remained committed to participating in the CAF Confederations Cup. These latest developments have forced club officials to call on government through the football association to make a special budget that could cater for such competitions. Chiefs’ spokesperson Cliford Mogomotsi called for immediate intervention.
“BFA must budget for these competitions to assist local teams. It is expensive to be in these competitions even for a big team like Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa,” he said.He added that participation in CAF competitions is no longer about clubs but the country. Meanwhile United’s Chairman Rapula Okaile, whose team will be travelling to Zanzibar for their opening CAF fixture, said they will be approaching Top 8 sponsors Mascom to find out how much money they will be getting.He reckons that the benefits of participating in CAF are massive, citing the exposure players get, which in turn benefits the national team.
To tell the commission’s side of the matter, the BNSC Chairman Solly Reikeletseng had not returned to this publication by press time despite earlier promises to do so. On the other hand, BG Sport sources revealed that league sponsors beMOBILE have asked BPL to make a fresh proposal regarding club funding since the BFA had omitted club funding in CAF competitions in the current sponsorship deal. The beMOBLIE sponsorship manager’s phone rang unanswered at press time.