By Bakang Mhaladi
Gaborone - Botswana football has taken a lot of pounding on and off the pitch lately, but there was rare good news in a space of one week when the soccer mother body, the Botswana Football Association (BFA), announced two key sponsorship deals.
Football had seen partner desert, leaving the country’s most popular sport to rely on a government grant, which is hardly sufficient.
BFA was forced to restructure, which will result in retrenchments while the national teams’ activities have suffered.
But the BFA has signed two significant sponsorship deals with a commercial bank, First National Bank (FNB), and mobile phone services provider, Orange Botswana.
First up, the BFA announced a three-year P12.6 million sponsorship deal with Orange Botswana, which will see the return of the FA Cup that was last held in 2012.
The FA Cup will see 48 teams, including those from the lower divisions, take part and battle for the first prize of P700,000.
The premier knockout competition was discontinued six years ago after a soft drinks manufacturer, Coca-Cola, pulled out to focus on grassroots development.
This left the Botswana Premier League with only two competitions per season, the BTC Premiership and the Mascom Top 8.
But that changed to three last week, with the under-fire BFA heaving a huge sigh of relief.
“I am glad to welcome Orange Botswana back to football. The FA Cup is an integral part of a robust development plan we have blueprinted at the BFA. And thank you Orange for being part of it through the FA Cup,” BFA president, Maclean Letshwiti said at the sponsorship launch in Gaborone.
Last week Thursday, FNB became the second corporate partner to sign a significant deal with BFA.
The bank agreed on a P 3million deal with BFA to assist junior national teams. This will take the burden off the cash-strapped association that has always struggled to fully prepare national sides.
The sponsorship is intended to support the administration of the Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 boys and girls’ sides.
“The deal reaffirms FNB’s commitment to grassroots sports development in Botswana as well as youth empowerment,” the bank’s CEO Steven Bogatsu said.
“We are eager and committed to raise the profiles and enhance skills of our young athletes,” he added.
The two sponsorship injections will help BFA, which has a negative bank balance. At one stage, the deficit stood at P10 million, although the association says it has managed to trim the arrears.
On the pitch, it has been a dark period as the senior national team, the Zebras are winless in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and the Under-23 were recently bundled out of the Olympic Games qualifiers by Malawi. Local clubs, Township Rollers and Orapa United saw their CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup roads end prematurely, respectively.