Back for his throne

Tebogo Sebego is one of the sharpest legal minds in the country.

However, it is his involvement in local football rather than his prowess in the courtroom that has turned the 45-year-old into a household name in Botswana.

Although he lost out on re-election in the 2016 Botswana Football Association (BFA) presidential elections, Sebogo was not away from the sport for long.

At the start of the 2017/18 season, ‘Mara’, as he is affectionately known, became the President of Notwane FC, helping Toronto secure promotion to the Premier League after three years in the dusty wilderness of the First Division.

The club has since retained its top-flight status this year and, with three games to go, are just four points off a Top8 place.

Away from Notwane, Sebogo got tongues wagging last month with a cryptic social media post, hinting at his interest to once again stand for Lekidi’s top post.

Voice Sport’s Portia Mlilo caught up with the Old Naledi success story to discuss his BFA presidential aspirations and the general state of football in Botswana.

At the end of March, you posted a social media status which read: ‘BFA elections in 2020. Current leader is serving one term… so he said. I am 45, could do last term incomplete goal. My age allows’. Does this mean you intend to stand in the elections?

Yes it is true, I wrote a status to the effect that I have intentions of standing for presidency again.

I have been President of Notwane for the past two seasons and I have identified the needs.

I know what is going on and what needs to be done. Looking back, I think I am better prepared to take football forward.

Does this mean you’re not happy with the current status of football in Botswana?

When I lost elections in 2016, I was like any other Motswana who was optimistic that the new leadership would be able to take our football to better heights than we did.

Unfortunately, we have regressed and I am saying this without any shadow of doubt.

Football has not gone any further; we have lost track in terms of the programmes we had.

We had a lot of programmes that were adopted by the assembly during my time after the constitutional changes.

We had an office empowering the secretariat, which is not being followed and as a result football has regressed.

In the FIFA rankings we have dropped from 86 where I left it to 146!

What was your strategy going into the 2016 BFA presidential elections?

Within my team there were some members I was not aligned to and I felt they were sabotaging whatever good we were making.

It was very difficult to progress under such circumstances!

The last two years of my office were very hard.

You come up with initiatives and some people surrounding you disrespect the confidentiality of our meetings.

When we went for the elections, it was really hot in the kitchen!

I was even fighting with the Premier League leaders then because they were working with those people sabotaging me.

It was not a conducive environment for progression of sport; we were not focusing on important things. People have seen what I went through and realised that what I spoke about was true.

What do you think caused this ‘back-stabbing’ by certain committee members?

Football is a big sport which attracts a lot of characters: both good and not so good.

For as long as football administrators are unable to distill between people with good intentions and those with not, we are still going to have problems.

One of the things I did was to be very straight during my time that certain characters were not fit to lead football; I think that is why those individuals were against me.

Some believe you became Notwane President as a way of staying relevant and positioning yourself for the BFA presidency?

You see, these are the kind of people we are talking about!

It is always about small talk and gossip, which is something we need to put out of sport.

I had decided to take leave from football when Notwane approached me.

The club said they know I have the skills and they are in lower division struggling to gain promotion back to the Premier League. I thought very hard about it.

I did not even think of the BFA presidency because I had thought the current regime would take it further.

But we are here, gone 10, 20 steps back.

I am now the President of a club because I love the game and I couldn’t stay away from it.

I am not making any living out of it and I actually spent money in running football.

It is not only me, other clubs’ leaders spend a lot.

I think by now people know that we need individuals who are really committed to improving the status of the game, individuals who are willing to sacrifice and empower those employed by football.

If elected, what would you do differently this time around?

We had programmes and one of the things I did was to come-up with a very versatile constitution that tries to create a board out of the National Executive Committee, which is geared at empowering our secretariat.

We came up with a structure aimed at maintaining a credible and profitable institution.

It was presented at the AGM in 2016 and adopted.

Now there are all sorts of funny positions cropping up which is not part of it.

They are no longer empowering the secretariat.

Instead, we football politicians are the ones busy at the office writing letters, which is something we are not supposed to do.

We are supposed to be strategic, come up with ideas and set targets for the secretariat and ensure that we empower them to deliver.

It is whispered that some eyeing the BFA Presidency are doing it for personal gain and the trips, allowances etc that come with the plum post. What’s your take?

Yes, there are some people going there for personal interest.

I must confess, when I was the President at BFA my law firm, Sebego Attorneys was not as profitable as it is right now.

I did not have time to do legal work because of my football calling but did not have a problem because I was doing it for the nation.

One of the reasons I had to consult my family before thinking of standing for next year’s elections is that I know the moment I get the seat back my profits will drop.

Unfortunately, this (football) is something I like.

My wife once threatened me on social media that should I go back to BFA she will divorce me!

But she is one person who understands me. We both love sport and she gives me all the support.

Have you started campaigning, do you have a lobby list?

I haven’t started campaigning primarily because I am focusing on helping Notwane retain its status in the league and also because I have a case logged against me by Letshwiti (Maclean Letshwiti, current BFA President) and his committee.

I am still dealing with the case (bringing local football into disrepute) and hopefully it will come to an end soon then I can start campaigning.

It is a case that is cooked against me. Even at this hour I am not able to take it seriously; the whole process is a joke!

In the past we were able to export our best talent. However, this has dried-up noticeably in recent times – what do you think could be the root cause of the problem?

There are many variables to the equation. We used to have a strong league during Mike Molefhe’s time.

Teams were getting grants and were able to sustain their programmes, even though it was not enough.

Players were focused on competition rather than protesting against unpaid salaries.

I think it is a structural problem and it is a great concern because it means we will not have a competitive national team.

At the moment teams are literally living hand-to-mouth and sometimes it doesn’t reach the mouth!

Finally, Thank God it’s Friday. What are your plans for the weekend?

I will be travelling to Orapa with my wife to watch my team Notwane FC playing against Orapa United.

It’s a sporting weekend!

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