- Says contrary to popular wisdom, COVID-19 is not entirely to blame
- Announces advanced plans to build 8 000-capacity sports facility in Bokaa
Football is currently at its lowest point in Botswana but the damnable COVID-19 pandemic cannot be entirely blamed for that, Gaborone United (GU) director, Nicholas Zakhem, has said.
In Zakhem’s view, for many years local football has not been moving forward like other sporting codes. “COVID-19 should not be used as an excuse,” he told this publication in an interview. “Before COVID-19, it was already dead, anyway.
“The 2018/19 season was played without prize money and there were no awards. Yes, COVID-19 has affected football in the same way that it has affected it in other countries. But why is it that other countries are moving forward and we are not? Is it because we do not have a plan?”
He argues that Botswana Football Association (BFA) should have long devised a plan to ensure that football returns instead of hiding behind the government’s restriction of competitive sports. After all, even if the government announced the return of competitive sports now, football would find it difficult to do so because it is dead and will need a miracle to bring it back to life and its days of glory.
“The point is that we do not have the right mechanism to return to the playing field,” Zakhem emphasised at a GU media engagement this week. “All we do is talk. We received an email from the Botswana Football League CEO which notes that on the 24th September we are commencing with official games. One wonders how that is possible after 18 months without playing football. Players need a minimum of 10 weeks of preparation to return after this lengthy layoff.”
Local football has been inactive for over 550 days, the last time an official league game having been played being in March last year. The Government Gazette of Tuesday 7 August 2021 states that the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) affiliated competitive sports may return to the field of play, bringing the dry spell to an end.
ZAKHEM TO BUILD A MULTI-MILLION PULA SPORTS FACILITY IN BOKAA
Meanwhile, Zakhem told journalists at the GU media engagement on Tuesday that his company Zac Construction, will build a multi-million pula sports facility in the Kgatleng village of Bokaa.
The sporting facility will have an 8 000-capacity mini-stadium that will function as a new home for GU. “The sporting facility will also have an artificial training turf and accommodation for our players,” Zakhem announced. “The idea of setting up an accommodation for our players is motivated by the fact that most of our players are scattered in Gaborone. Some even live in Ramotswa and Mmopane. The aim is to have our players in one place because these are fully committed individuals whose sole job is to play for the club.”
The facility will also have gym rooms, a medical room, swimming pools and an entertainment park. Zakhem said the idea is for the sports facility to have a lodge mainly for use by visiting teams. “It will be a complete sporting facility,” he noted. “This is something that I have always wanted to do as a token of appreciation to Batswana and the GU family.”
According to the GU financier, the project is estimated to cost between P70 million and P80 million.