Football in the grip of thuggery

Joe-Brown Tlhaselo
Tuesday, 16 February 2016
RAT HOLE… The intruder’s work at the BPL offices RAT HOLE… The intruder’s work at the BPL offices

Stories of football offices being broken into by diehard football thugs are not uncommon, and they have been known to be a part of sporting life in overseas countries, especially in South America where passion for the sport is often confused with plain hooliganism.

Now the phenomenon has hit Botswana. It is an ugly side of football that is slowly creeping into the country, and given the lackadaisical response to the emerging catastrophe by responsive authorities, people are going to die – one of the days.

The violence witnessed last Friday at the Molepolole Sport Complex is not unprecedented, and even more scary, the thuggery has now extended to football office break ins. It is four days since the Botswana Premier League (BPL) offices were found broken into on Monday morning, and to date, the police are yet to make arrests nor make a determination of what the intruders could have been really looking for.

When the premier league office staff arrived for work on that Monday morning, they were surprised to notice that the security alarm at the main entrance was not armed as usual. Upon entry into their building, they came face to face with grim evidence of a burglary, although it emerged later in the day that nothing was evidently stolen.

Some filing cabinets and money safe were blast open while the internal doors were carved open to seemingly gain easy passage from one office to another. Yet valuables such as tablets, a laptop, computers, printers and television sets among other electronics, were left untouched. To date, there is no clue as to who the transgressors are or what they were looking for.

The BPL CEO Bennett Mamelodi too, was clueless, confirming that nothing was evidently stolen. Until press time, Central Police Station’s Acting Commander Assistant Superintendent Keoagile Tau had yet to return to this publication for more information because he was in a series of meetings, but the station’s staff confirmed that they were handling the matter and investigations were ongoing.

Yet a thorough assessment of the violated sections by BG Sport on Monday told a story of contradictions – things just do not add up. At face value, the intruders gained entry into the building by breaking in through the CEO’s office.

They then used the holes carved out on internal doors to proceed to the other offices – including the PA’s office, the finance office, the player registrations’ office and the Security Manager’s office. The panic button in the Security Manager’s office was damaged and the ceiling boards adjacent to the office were dismantled, with the overhead alarm cables severed, presumably to disable the alarm.

Yet the premier league office staff confirmed that the last time they left the office, the security alarm was activated as usual. How the ‘burglars’ first gained entry into the building without triggering the alarm remains a mystery. Besides, they had to break down two internal doors and walk through the passage before they could reach the Security Manager’s office that houses the alarm set box.

Logic suggests that the alarm would have been set off upon forced entry into the CEO’s office, or further when they broke the CEO office’s door into his PA’s office, and even further when they broke the PA’s door into the main hallway of the building. Why the intruders then had to go and damage the ceiling to reach the alarm cables when they were already inside does not make sense as all spaces in the building have burglar sensors.

The whole matter remains the subject of police investigation but from the assessment of the damages, a sixth sense tells of operation planned over time by people who know the offices too well. The place has no Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras, but it is manned by ProGuard security company which that night had deployed three men and a guard dog. Yet they too said they saw nor heard nothing. Not even the guard dog could detect the transgression. The three men were later taken in by the police for questioning.

The bigger question then is: what were the intruders looking for? If it was a robbery or burglary as it were, why was nothing stolen? The blasting of the money safe would suggest they may have been looking for money or classified documents, but the BPL CEO confirms that they do not keep money in the safe except on rare emergencies emanating from night games.

If it was money they were looking for, burglars would naturally look to the expensive gadgets around them for consolation. But all the valuables were ignored, yet there is no evidence that the intruders were in a hurry during their ransack operation.

The police and the BPL employees were not ready to say much on the incidence especially since the break in had just been discovered, but the whole incident leaves a lot to be desired. The breaking into the filing cabinet that is in the PA’s office suggests they were looking for some form of information – some documentation, but what for? By breaking into the player registrations office, could they have been looking for information on players? The breaking into the Security Manager’s office could even mean that whoever did it knew that the security system is housed inside that office.

The whole thing tells of a criminal who knows the ins and outs of the BPL office; which begs the question – does it involve one of the employees perhaps being used as a proxy for someone or some people in the league who harbour ill motives? Whatever the case, it was a bizarre occurrence with all the hallmarks of an inside job, and should bring to question the extent to which confidential documents are safe at the BPL office.

The BPL officers, who were this week taking inventory of office equipment and documents, have yet to identify anything missing. However, whatever was achieved with the break-in may surface at a later day, perhaps after months or years; and whatever it is, it may be used to paralyse the office and its operations.

With so many things that have been happening in our football lately, this may not just be a random burglary, but a well-calculated act of football thuggery. What more with pending cases between clubs themselves, as well as between clubs and the BFA/BPL? It may seem far-fetched, but with the current thuggish atmosphere in our football, it is possible.

Documents that can be used for and against clubs in pending cases are obviously housed in the BPL office. And there are many such cases – there is the recent court saga that may result in one BFA affiliate club being banned for taking a football matter to the courts of law; some clubs are still questioning the legitimacy of some players’ registrations and the issuing of International Clearance Certificates; others are still facing the possibilities of being docked points that may relegate them to the lower divisions.

Destroying evidence and causing the current league to be nullified are posibilities the football nation should be prepared for. The police themselves need to know a lot of what is going on in our football to have proper leads, otherwise they may trudge for years in their investigations trying to look for a non-existent burglar.

The police are carrying out their investigations and could be done in no time, but clearly, the ultimate beneficiary of the break-in is a football person – a high ranking football official,  perhaps even an employee within the BPL office.

The broken window in the CEO’s office may even be a ploy to divert attention – the main entrance may have been used. It is just a theory for now, but very plausible. Because nowadays, our football is that sick!

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