Botswana soccer fans robbed of excitement

By Bakang Mhaladi

GABORONE – The expectations were rising the moment the draw for the Supa Power Cup kept Zimbabwe giants, Highlanders and Dynamos apart in the semi-finals.

Two other participants in what was supposed to be an inaugural edition, were local sides, Mochudi Centre Chiefs and TAFIC.

But it was the real prospect of  first ever matches featuring Highlanders and Dynamos on Botswana soil that had some Zimbabwe and Botswana fans excited.

There is a considerable Zimbabwe population in Botswana, and the organisers, Joy Foundation were looking to cash-in.

With the stage set for the one-day tournament, which was supposed to take place at the Francistown Sports Complex last week Saturday, the Zimbabwe teams withdrew at the last minute.

The two teams had been cleared by ZIFA to take part in the Botswana tournament and had even named their traveling sides.

But Joy Foundation left the anticipating fans, high and dry. Highlanders had insisted on payment upfront after the organisers promised to pay each squad member P5000 ($500) appearance fee. There was to be no prize money for the teams.

Joy Foundation director, Joy Setshedi had told the media that the appearance fees would be paid on Friday, on the eve of tournament.

But the Zimbabwe sides were not amused and announced their withdrawal, with Highlanders the first to take the decision.

Dynamos followed suit, both citing the organisers’ failure to meet certain contractual obligations.

Dynamos president, Kenny Mubaiwa is quoted in the Zimbabwe media accusing the organisers of trying to exploit their popularity.

“It’s a harsh lesson for us as the two biggest clubs in Zimbabwe. Now we know there are people who in the future could come again trying to exploit us and I believe that could have happened if we had not stuck to the position that they need to honour their obligations first before we could go to Botswana,” Mubaiwa said.

Setshedi once organised a local tournament and teams complained of late payment.

But this time, Setshedi argued she was not bent on cheating teams, insisting “we were serious about staging the tournament.”

Although Setshedi said she is hopeful the tournament would be staged at a later date, both Bosso and Dembare would be skeptical after last week’s farce.

Some fans had already booked accommodation ahead of the tournament but now feel robbed.

The organisers said fans who bought tickets, with the cheapest at P60, should return them for a refund.

But that is not enough to soothe fans who had eagerly awaited the clash between Zimbabwe’s two biggest sides had they made the final.

“How do you compensate the fans for the accommodation booked and other inconveniences?” asked local sports journalist, Duncan Kgangkenna.

He said he was pessimistic from the word go following what transpired previously.

A senior football official at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) said such developments do not put the organisers and local football in good light.

He said the association is working on measures to regulate the organisation of friendly tournaments in a bid to protect the game from “opportunists.”

Highlanders and Dynamos had both been excused from a hectic Castle Lager Premier League program to allow them to travel to Botswana.

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