They say a new broom sweeps clean; which seems to apply perfectly well in a game of football as substitutions are made to try and get vital wins all the time.
It however still remains to be seen whether the new broom at the Botswana Premier League, Chief Executive Officer, Bennett Mamelodi who ascended to the hot seat when soccer in Botswana is about to transform and be commercialised would rise to the occasion.
The man affectionately dubbed ‘Diving’ by his friends in football circles for his acrobatic antics when he was goalkeeper back in the days has a lot on his hands. Monnakgotla Mojaki caught up with this reserved but knowledgeable football boss to talk about his new role.
BOTSWANA PREMIER LEAGUE CEO
You are slowly starting to dominate the back pages of all newspapers; can you briefly explain who Bennett Mamelodi is?
I am a simple ordinary Motswana man, the last born in a family of five. I was born and bred in Botswana. I schooled in Thornhill, Maruapula and then the University of Botswana.
Last borns are said to be either spoilt or mummy’s boys where do you fall?
I don’t think I am any of those, I was raised in a very strict environment by a strict family. One had to be responsible and hardworking so there was no chance to be a mummy’s boy.
You have played football and earned the name ‘Diving’ how did it come about?
That name oh yes, it was during the time I played for Centre Chiefs, I was recruited by the late Kenny Mwape the then Chiefs mentor. He introduced me to the finer things in football. He told me that there were many goalkeepers in the league and I needed to be distinguished from the rest. I was very athletic and very spectacular. I wanted to give the fans value for their money. Fans needed to come and watch me play hence I was acrobatic all the time.
You are now the Botswana Premier League Chief Executive Officer it must be a very challenging task?
Extremely, there was a lot of public debate surrounding the whole appointment. I was brought in to come and assist and not replace anyone. Football needed an extra hand. Unpopular decisions have to be taken but I am comforted by the realisation that we are making progress.
You have worked as a consultant for the league and now you are the CEO what is the difference?
As a consultant my role was to advise the league, they were at liberty to take the advice or not. As the CEO I implement decisions taken by the board. I get specific mandates and it means accountability becomes key. I have to keep the board informed and of course take decisions without fear or favour all the time.
When you were appointed what was your immediate role and what is the long term one?
The immediate one was to accelerate the league transformation and make it more organised. I have to deal with critical issues, look at the commercialisation of the league and come up with strategies. I also have to make the league more credible. Again I have to build our league against other African leagues and benchmark it against the South African one in terms of governance, compliance, discipline and commercial wing.
Is it possible for Botswana football club to turn professional?
It is absolutely possible; clubs have to take stock of themselves and be painfully honest and accept reality. Professionalism is not a fruit that you pick from a tree forgetting to plant the seed, fertilise it, water it and watch it grow. They need to understand what they want in order to turn professional.
For as long as they are societies it is a problem. Teams need to get corporate. Efforts have been done by the likes of Gaborone United, FC Satmos and Uniao Flamengo Santos to a certain extent. All the other clubs
need to follow suit. And we can’t have a scenario where clubs change leaderships every year.
There is need to embrace the Bosele declaration, have contracts and build from the fact that most players earn a living from football so why can’t clubs do that.
What will it take to turn things around in a very honest manner?
We need to adopt an aggressive approach; it has to be compulsory for clubs to implement certain things. They need to do what it takes to make money.
You stayed for sometime in South Africa, what was your area of operation and how will that experience help Botswana football?
I will say the biggest asset I brought was contacts. Interaction with players in the game is also part of what I brought. My work in television also gave me the understanding of the value of a broadcaster. If we look at the PSL in South Africa it is not that old but it was repackaged and is now a better product. We need to measure our growth in terms of registered members not just to say we are big when we can’t substantiate it. Sponsors need to see these things.
What are the main critical challenges looking at all this and in your office generally?
For people to embrace change is a problem, it has taken a while. It takes time for our people to admit that change is necessary but now people are beginning to understand change and of course my philosophy and the need to be relevant to it. It is coming well.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave in the league and is it realistic?
A fully fledged functional secretariat that presides over a professional league, well run, organised and in a healthy financial position. I want to see clubs self sustainable and attracting sponsorship. I want to see developmental structures that will feed the national teams. I want to see players playing in better leagues overseas and also the league attracting the best players from other countries.
Our clubs are poor, what are you going to be doing to help them commercialise?
We are about to roll out a commercial strategy, to assist our clubs move out of the society model. We should have made progress by the end of the coming season. If clubs don’t have money it doesn’t augur well for the BPL brand as they have employees to pay and financial embarrassment could create a wrong image for all of us. It is a priority.
Your brother Ashford Mamelodi is a football administrator did he somehow influence your choice of career?
Not really but he has been very supportive. He didn’t say I must do it; he obviously counsels me, advises and does all he could to help. He understands that I have to travel my own path. We can’t duplicate roles. But generally he is very accommodating and supportive.
Don’t you have to deal with his ghosts every now and then?
Unfortunately that is unavoidable, it comes with the territory and I am not apologetic about the fact that Ashford is my brother.
You are a newlywed how does your wife cope with her husband always having to be taken away from her by football at odd hours?
It is a challenge but it helps that she knew what she was getting into, very supportive, understanding and of course loving.
What is your vision for the league let’s say maybe for the next five years or so?
I draw my vision in phases, by December I would like to see all our teams with offices and generating income. By next season I want to see the corporate world competing for the league properties. I want the league to be regarded as the best in the continent.
FULLNAMES: Bennett Boikhutso Boy boy Mamelodi
D.O.B : January 7 1971
P.O.B : Gaborone
HOME VILLAGE: Mahalapye
ROLE MODEL: My late father Jacob Phalantwa Mamelodi
FAVOURITE MUSIC: Anything uplifting
FAVOURITE FOOD: Anything home cooked
BOOK READING: A warrior’s life by Paulo Coelho