10 years later constituency league still divides opinion

At its inception in 2008, the Constituency League, which is the brainchild of outgoing President Ian Khama, was a hot potato that pitted sports administrators and commentators against each other.

Khama’s pet project, which has grown in stature in the last 10 years, continues to polarise opinion.

The league pitted Botswana Football Association against FIFA, and was constantly condemned by most politicians as a political gimmick by the president.

Faced with prospects of sanctions from the world football governing body, BFA under the then President, David Fani, pleaded with government to review the league and allow the football association to have an input in its roll out.

The President would however have none of it. The project was run from constituency offices and ran parallel to official league structures in the country.

From 2008 to 2009, the tournament cost tax payers well over P10 million.

In 2010, two years after its inception the league gobbled up P28 million and the expenses have been increasing at an alarming rate ever since.

In 2016 it was reported that P125 million was spent on the project, which was now referred to as Constituency Sport Tournaments.

The issue of the controversial league cropped out once again at the recent Sports Pitso held at Majestic Hotel in Palapye.

Sports leader Tsoseletso Magang wondered what the league’s mandate is. The former Kutlwano Volleyball Club attacker said the league has divided sports people and needed to be reviewed.

“Why can’t we empower sports associations to run this league?” she asked.

“I can only suspect that we are not trusted to run sports in this country. Who exactly runs this league anyway? What qualifications do they posses?” charged Magang.

In response, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Thapelo Olopeng explained that the constituency league, unlike mainstream sport, has a social element to it. He said it was a sports development initiative meant to keep unemployed youth off the streets.

“I urge associations to make an assessment of this league, research and present to the Ministry,” said Olopeng.

During his reign at BFA, Fani complained at the time that the league could be detrimental to football development as many talented youngsters could be lost to the well resourced structure.

This point was also raised by Magang during the discussion. She said while many sports code are struggling financially the constituency league never has to worry about dry coffers.

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