Zakhem And Shah To Leave BFL Amid Racism Challenges

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Two prominent figures in the local football sphere-Nicholas Zakhem and Jagdish Shah have an-nounced their departure from the Botswana Football League at the end of the current 2023/24 sea-son. The decision comes after a tumultuous season marred with internal strife.

During a press conference recently, Zakhem and Shah claimed to be victims of racial bias, as they had to deal with football stakeholders who allegedly harbour discriminatory sentiments as well as negative racial scores from the minister of Sports Tumiso Rakgare in a live television recently.

Zakhem has claimed that Rakgare’s actions and statements reflected a discriminatory sentiment, indicating that the minister’s alleged bias further strained relations within the BFL, emphasising that it is not proper for him to interfere with football.

“The minister is interfering with football because going to a national television and comment on football matters is not acceptable. When he said football is being run by foreigners, he was referring to Shah and I,” he said.

Zakhem indicated while Botswana is not known for remarks that bear the hallmarks of racism, they have experienced that for the first time lately.

Meanwhile Shah confirmed that he will step down at the end of the current season, indicating that while their tenure ends in May 2025, he will leave in May 2024 owing to issues around him.

Shah revealed that he had resigned from his position as director, but the board together with share-holders overruled his decision, adding that he had wanted to leave because he was no longer affili-ated to any club.

“Many people in the football fraternity thought that we were fighting the decision taken by the shareholders, and it was not about the position but our integrity. So come May 2024 we should be handing over rather than wait until 2025 as it should be the case,” he revealed.

Zakhem and Shah are influential football executives who have been at the forefront of BFL opera-tions for several years and their tenure has seen significant developments in Botswana’s football landscape. However, recent events have cast a shadow over their leadership.

In the contentious stakeholder meeting in Palapye last year, some stakeholders voted to them re-move them from the BFL board. Godfrey Ratlhaga, chairman of Masitaoka, was installed as the new chairperson, while Tumelo Toteng, TAFIC chairman, replaced Shah on the board. The deci-sion was met with tension and disagreement, reflecting the deep divisions within the organization.

One of the reported reasons for the fallout was the decision for Zakhem to relegate four premier league teams at the end of the current season 2023/24 while the BFL leadership maintained that the league should consist of 12 teams, some clubs opposed this move. The disagreement escalated, leading to the removal of the two gentlemen.

In response to their removal, Zakhem and Shah have taken legal action. They filed an urgent appli-cation in the High Court, challenging the decision and seeking reinstatement. The court will now adjudicate the dispute over control of the BFL.

As the 2023/24 season draws to a close, the BFL faces uncertainty. The departure of Zakhem and Shah will leave a void in the leadership of the BFL and must now grapple with not only the chal-lenges on the field but also the internal turmoil that threatens its integrity.

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