There is not much happening to improve development football in Botswana, as most of the money and resources seem to focus on elite structures in the sport.
Recently Kgalagadi Breweries Limited decided to divert from top-flight football and focus on grassroots instead. This was a most welcome move in local football circles. With the demise of the popular Chappies League in recent years, not much has been happening in local grassroots football.
Moreover, the knock on effect has been devastating for both the Botswana Premier League and the national team with goals failing to bang in. However, all is not lost as there are passionate individuals who have taken an initiative to cultivate future football stars.
One such individual is fanatic Naeem Bhamjee. For five years Bhamjee, a former footballer himself, has been building up a development team known as Park Lane FC. Today the community development team which includes under 13, under 17 and under 19s has become a formidable force. “For two years now the under 19s team has gone undefeated in local development football circles,” said Bhamjee, adding that the team also dabbles in 5-a-side football.
Bhamjee, who held on to his passion for football after hanging up his boots back in 2001, said his two sons aged between 13 and 16 years are players at Park Lane. “I wanted to introduce them to football outside private school. Park Lane recruits young players from less privileged areas like Old Naledi and White City. We try to enrich and transform these players’ lives by ensuring they train and play regularly.” In addition, Bhamjee, who first played football at Nyangabgwe FC alongside the likes of Phazha Butale and Ace Chandi, said his development programme feeds, clothes and provides transport money for both their players and those from the opposition sides they engage. All this spending, he said, comes from his own pocket while some local corporate entities also provide additional support.
“Currently we have two players - Tshepo Manglas (Under 17) and Shima Manglas (Under 19 who have been called to the Zebras development camps,” he revealed. Park Lane, he added, plays alongside 50 other development teams in the Greater Gaborone Development League (GGDL), which is part of the government-sponsored Bona Naledi community development project. Park Lane will be playing at the GGDL finals scheduled for Old Naledi this weekend. The football development fanatic is contemplating forming a senior league club given the stellar performance of his Under 19 players.
“Big teams have since approached us showing interest in some of our players. However, I can allow my players to join bigger teams provided they will be looked after,” he said. Speaking to BG Sport this week, the Project Bona Naledi GGDL football coordinator Masego Nchingani confirmed that Park Lane was part of their project. Nchingani said the project, which started in Gaborone, now encompasses other areas including Kumakwane, Lobatse and Thamaga. Football is just part of the ‘Bona Naledi’ Project that started in June last year. The project involves over 4000 children in Under 13 and Under 17 teams. “This weekend will be the GGDL finals and we expect government and football officials to grace the event.”