Botswana Football Association (BFA) has signed heads of agreements with a company called INEOS Football Botswana Limited to develop and re-establish a football academy, the WeekendPost’s WeekendSport has learnt.
The spadework could have long been completed but the former Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama reportedly stalled progress, arguing that the resubmission of facts be reviewed at cabinet level. Before Tshekedi was redeployed to the Ministry, Minister Thapelo Olopeng had convinced cabinet of the BFA’s fantastic dream of building a football academy in Gaborone. TK has previously argued that the academy, should it see the light of the day, be erected elsewhere other than Gaborone.
Documents seen by WeekendSport now indicate that the association has earnestly recommenced the process and is at a stage where a deal has been agreed with relevant the parties. The papers reveal that “BFA has agreed to cooperate with INEOS to establish the academy and thereafter, support the Academy’s objectives and in particular, to secure the land and the lease in favour of INEOS.”
An agreement has also been reached, “in consideration of the lease, INEOS shall effect the development and thereafter, fund the management and operations of the academy. All the while, this development is highly welcomed at Lekidi football centre where the association’s overwhelming talks to commercial football are anticipated to accelerate.”
There’s an indication that BFA is now re-engaging the British chemical engineer turned financier and industrialist, James Ratcliffe to start pumping money into the BFA project, expected to be completed in the next two years. Ratcliffe, originally from Switzerland, had visited the country on three occasions, precisely the Lekidi Football Centre, since MacLean Letshwiti assumed the BFA power seat. The main reason for the visits, WeekendSport has learnt, was to discuss the setting up of the academy as well as to assess the possible piece of land where the academy would be constructed.
The state-of-the-art facility according to the site layout, will include-among others-accommodation for up to 80 people; an indoor training facility; a fully equipped gym and a restaurant for both academy and the public, a high-tech media conference centre that can seat 80.
Three times the full-size top of the range FIFA approved turf fields, artificial turf 5-a-side fields, boardroom and office space and on-site medical services (doctor and physiotherapists).
Also, the project will help upgrade the netball facilities as well as install a multi-sport zone for public use. The facility will not only be used for football but it will also be a commercial structure to be used to generate money to run itself. Ratcliffe, through his chemical company INEOS Capital Limited, will solely foot the bills of the facility. Overall, the projection of how much exactly is likely to be spent has not been determined.
The objectives of the academy are to allow young Botswana footballers to transform into better footballers at a world-class facility in their home country. Furthermore, it will allow for the best players to travel to Lausanne, Switzerland- a country that also houses the FIFA headquarters- to complete a further 2 year of academy training and education that will eventually avail them the opportunity to become professional footballers in Europe.
According to the BFA Chief Executive Officer (CE0) Mfolo Mfolo, the importance of the facility cannot be underestimated.
“It will give us quality players, secondly we will give young players an opportunity to penetrate the European market, especially because the investor has recently acquired a team in Switzerland’s top-flight league,” Mfolo said.