The Chairman of Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Solly Reikeletseng this week said he fully supports Botswana Football Association (BFA)’s recent decision of withdrawing the U-20 Women’s football team from the ongoing 2018 FIFA U-20 Women World Cup Qualifiers.
The BFA last week issued a press statement announcing the unfortunate withdrawal of the women’s team due to financial constraints. This means Botswana will not be able to honour their second leg of the World Cup Qualifiers preliminary round scheduled for Kenya this coming weekend. The local U-20 team recently suffered a crushing 1-7 defeat against Kenya in Lobatse.
While the sudden decision by BFA might have been another leap towards the slow and painful death of women football in the country, Reikeletseng begged to differ when speaking to BG Sport in an interview earlier this week.
“BFA did well, it was a good move in my view, we cannot afford to be mere participants, we have to send a team that will participate and represent us well,” an adamant Reikeletseng said. The BNSC chairman is of the view that the team had not prepared well and it would have been wastage of resources to go ahead with the games despite the pressing issue of the team‘s unpreparedness at hand.
He strongly advised that the matter was not about gender in sport, but bringing out results, saying that currently there is no women’s league running and that on its own was a massive drawback for women football.
However Reikeletseng advised BFA to retrace and try to empower women through the aid of constituency leagues while trying to source funds for the league.
On the other hand, the matter has since opened up old wounds and stirred up mixed reactions from the local football community, who feel that the mother body is not doing enough to rescue women football and while BFA continues to casually watch the girl child disappear in local sports circles, women football remains in its death bed.
“I wonder if BFA was not aware of their financial struggle before the start of the qualifiers. Why would they play the first leg only to cancel the next stage in a few days?” International Working Group on Women and Sport Secretary General Game Mothibi asked rhetorically in an interview this week
Mothibi heavily criticised BFA’s planning structure, saying it is high time they take women structures seriously and plan for both men and female teams in a balanced manner. Moreover, the U-20 national team Coach Jacqueline Gaobinelwe did not hide her feelings on the matter. She shared her disappointments with BG Sport this week about how BFA went about withdrawing the team from the World qualifiers.
According to her, BFA CEO Ookeditse Malesu and one representative from the women desk office Barobi Ngwako summoned her on Thursday last week and broke the news to her.
Despite their lengthy discussion on how best to tackle the situation, Coach Gaobinelwe said they failed to reach a less painful solution to the matter. She also argued that it soon became evident that BFA had long made the decision on the matter before they consulted them as the concerned party.
“They pressed hard on the issue that there is no money, so we will not be able to return our second leg against Kenya. However the team manager and myself overheard the CEO’s conversation where he was being advised that CAF instructed the BFA to inform FIFA about their decision.
The letter had already been drafted and was there right before our eyes, I feel that as women, we are oppressed in football, BFA did not do enough for the team and they have hurt our players' feelings,” lamented the coach.
As if that was not enough, Gaobinelwe was further left bleeding when BFA took the matter to the public before officially addressing athletes about the matter. “I was shocked to hear the BFA spokesperson Tumo Mpatane confidently addressing the local media on the matter.” Upon realising that she could not contain the heat of the matter, nor convince the BFA leadership to go back on their decision, Gaobinelwe and her technical team took the matter to President Ian Khama’s on Saturday evening.However their efforts did not bear any fruits as they were redirected to BFA and instructed to resolve their issues amicably.
She is greatly disturbed by the fact that the same youth team was greatly disappointed last year after being denied a chance to compete at Africa Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 championships with insufficient funds being provided as the reason.
“BFA only uses us when it benefits them, when things take a different twist, they dump us, women are not taken seriously by the football leadership,” charged Coach Oaitse Moeti of Mexican girls women football Club.
Moeti said he is gravely concerned that BFA is not rising up to the troubling situation of having no active women’s football at the moment. He argued that killing the youth national team was a heavy blow.
The team is said to have been in camp only two weeks before their humiliating game against Kenya but expected to excel come match day. “BFA should be seeking solutions; we cannot be crying about lack of funds year in and out, something has to be done.”