While government through the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development is applauded for cushioning the sports fraternity from the devastating effects of covid-19 with relief -fund packages the latter has however been slammed for having not extended the same aid to lower football division.
Minister Tumiso Rakgare on Monday announced that 25 players from each of the 16 clubs in the premier league will receive P2500.00 each while 25 players from each of the 24 clubs in first division league will receive P1500.00 each. The payments will respectively run for the months of April, May and June.
Lower football division will however not benefit from the packages. Rakgare said the Botswana Football Association (BFA) will through the expected FIFA emergency relief funds assist clubs at regional level. The decision did not seat well with Local Regional Football Administrator, Fobby Radipotsane who complained that clubs at lower division continue to be snubbed when it comes to covid-19 relief packages. He highlighted that the BFA recently only assisted premier league clubs with P40 000.00 each leaving out regional clubs. In an interview with The Patriot Sport, Radipotsane said relief packages are a good initiative but they should however be inclusive to all parties affected by the covid-19 pandemic.
He argued that the covid-19 effects are much more concentrated at lower regions as compared to those in the premier and first division leagues. Lower division is were professional players are developed and there are around 17 regional football divisions across the country. Radipotsane highlighted that players in regions such as Nojane, Gumare, Pilikwe , Hunkuntsi and Lekgwabe among others are currently in dire situation owing to the imposed extreme social distancing which has affected many rural economies.
“Majority of lower division players are form 3/5 failures mostly situated in rural areas and they depend on Ipelegeng jobs for survival. So it becomes very difficult for them not to be assisted because during this time they are locked in their homes without jobs and something to eat,” Radipotsane indicated.
The outspoken football administrator believes that a proper assessment about the covid-19 effects should have been done for the entire football fraternity so that government would have appreciated what is really happening on the ground. Radipotsane said they have thought that while still awaiting assistance from FIFA, government and BFA should have also assisted them just like it did with clubs in the upper leagues. He condemned the suggestion that they will be assisted at a later stage with the expected funding from FIFA.
“We cannot wait for FIFA money because it will take long for us to be helped, chances are that the money will only be available maybe next year but players won’t be able to wait that long without anything to sustain themselves in the meantime,” he complained. Radipotsane pleaded that even if the assistance its not in monetary form the affected players can at least be assisted with food hampers.
Government has also snubbed foreign players plying their trade for the local premier league clubs. Rakgare stressed the relief packages were only meant for local players noting that clubs will take responsibility for their signed foreign players. This is not only happening in football but it also happens to be the case to other foreign employees in the private sector as government is clear about its position that it will not extend the subsidy to non-citizens. The decision has left some foreign players who have not yet received their monthly dues from their teams in a limbo. Botswana Union of Footballers (FUB) Secretary General Kgosana Masaseng says they will engage BFA to see how affected players can be assisted. He revealed that their proposal is for BFA to pay the players and the association will replace the money with the expected emergency relief fund from FIFA.
According to Masaseng, about eight teams in the premier league are failing to pay the affected foreign players their full salaries. “Our concern is that if the players are not assisted now the clubs will never be able to pay them. Our worry is that the players cannot be left with the believe that clubs will pay them that is not going to happen,” Masaseng expressed concerned.
Meanwhile BFA CEO Mfolo Mfolo has stressed that the association will through the FIFA emergency Relief fund cover whatever that government has not managed to cover with their P70 million relief package. Mfolo could however not state as to whether foreign players will also directly benefit from the awaited funding noting that guidelines on how this will unfold are not yet complete. “We have put a task team that will look into guidelines and frameworks of how we can try to assist from our end those that have not