The queen of hearts

Portia Mlilo

Although she is no make-up artist, Carol Kgafela has been handed the daunting task of restoring the beautiful game’s battered image.

Appointed Head of Marketing, Commercial and Communications at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) on 22 August, the 36-year-old is on a mission to win back the hearts and minds of disillusioned supporters up and down the land.

Boasting a wealth of marketing experience having previously worked for Hotwire PRC, Orange and CEDA, the highly qualified media communicator is confident she is the right person to turn things around and ultimately commercialise Diskie.

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A high-performing woman in what was once considered a man’s world, Kgafela highlights her goals as she chats to fellow football fanatic, PORTIA MLILO

Congratulations on your recent appointment, you must be over the moon?

Thank you very much for having me on The Big Interview.

Super excited about my new role and journey with the BFA and looking forward to all that comes with it.

Before we get into your new role, tell us a bit about your background in the beautiful game – have you played before?

I actually have. I am an avid and versatile sports person.

Played football semi competitively in my primary and early high school days and later in life went on to play social football.

Where does your interest in joining the BFA stem from?

I have over the years developed a love for sports publicity, this having observed as an outsider the gaps that existed within the sporting fraternity as a whole.

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My main interest is in how I, as a communications specialist, can contribute to better positioning Botswana Sports as a viable business, not only the different associations but the individual players and athletes as well.

My experience in anything sports related dates back to my days at Orange Botswana when my then employer took over the Phikwe Marathon and I had to run with it.

I took a lot out of that experience and went on to work with Obert Morgan to put together the inaugural FNB Kazungula Bridge Marathon earlier this year.

But neither is football-related?

Yes but both experiences gave me hands on, gloves off type insight and experience in sports administration.

When the BFA opportunity presented itself, I figured why not? I was up for the challenge so I took it.

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And how are you settling into the notoriously male dominated organisation?

It’s been six weeks in office and I am finding it to be very interesting.

But so far so good, we take it one day at a time.

So what exactly does your role entail?

My role isn’t too complex. I am responsible for the marketing and communications of the BFA.

Additionally and in line with the association’s vision of becoming a self-sustaining professional sports organisation of excellence, a huge chunk of my job is to explore and establish commercial avenues that can bring money into the association and reduce its reliance on Government.

What are your priority areas?

Administration: setting up processes and procedures as well as policies that inform and guide the day-to-day running of the department.

Reputation management: coming into office, one of the greatest concerns as shared by management is the association’s reputation.

A lot of people and our stakeholders do not view or hold the association in positive light.

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Changing the narrative and shedding a positive light on the association and football as a whole is very important to me.

This includes all stakeholders, internally and externally; BFA staff as carriers and ambassadors of the brand; our players; the corporate community; the media as carriers of information and news – we need to greatly work on our relations with media, our information dissemination and carry them as a stakeholder with influence, ours is to ensure its influence that works out best for us – as well as the football lovers and fans.

I believe that the only way we can win back the hearts of the corporate community and have them backing us again is when they see that association with the BFA is not a reputational risk.

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Moreover, we need to win back the hearts of our biggest customer: the football lovers and fans.

We can only do so by cleaning up our reputation and rebuilding their trust in the association and the game that they love.

Wow, sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for you!

The aim is to position the BFA and football as a whole as a business entity that can generate its own money.

The objective is self-reliance – so exploring strategic partnerships and business avenues that can help us achieve this is a major priority.

We want to make football cool again; we are nothing without the football lovers and fans.

We need to get back to a place of full stadiums and fans fully behind and supporting the game that they love.

I’m hoping to get us back to that nostalgic place of AFCON 2012 where we had been united by the game of football and we came out in large numbers to support our teams.

The queen of hearts

How do you hope to get these numbers back?

I am currently in the middle of a Brand and Stakeholder audit.

I believe in listening then coming up with plans to address the feedback.

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The objective of this audit is to properly group our different stakeholders in order to engage with them at different levels.

I believe as things stand, we can group them into 3: existing sponsors, those who are still here and continue to support the game of football; the ones we have lost, those that previously sponsored the game but have since cut ties; and finally the potentials, those that have never sponsored football.

The overall aim of this exercise is to engage with the different groups and establish their reasons for staying or going as well as why they have never been a part of the local football community.

This will look into perceptions, brand reputation and risks, budgetary and others.

Hopefully this will help us understand what the root cause of the problem is as well as give us insight into opportunities that exist that we may not be aware of, and inform us on how we can better position ourselves to gain back the trust of our sponsors.

It is only then that we can begin to work on fixing the problems!

We have few women in football both as athletes and administrators, what could be the reason?

Personally, I think we are behind in terms of grooming and encouraging women to go into football as both administrators and players.

There is still a thing about football being for boys and men, and as such the girl child is hardly encouraged to play the sport from a young age.

What do you think can be done to address this?

It begins with us, as parents and guardians to the girl child.

We need to break the mentality of viewing football as a sport for boys.

Buy your child a football, take them with you to games.

Allow them to play football with the boys on the streets practising penalty shootouts and other aspects of the game.

The more we expose the girl child to the game the more interest we build; only then will we see an increase in uptake and love for the game from our young girls.

What makes a great communicator?

Someone who listens and does not just listen to respond but to understand!

Communication is a two-way stream: to be a great communicator you need to be a good listener.

That way you are able to craft your message to be relevant and specific to your audience.

Generalization and a blanket approach don’t work in communication.

You need to know and understand your different audiences and craft your message to be specific to them.

The only way to do that is if you actually listen, hear and understand what they have to say.

What advice can you give to women who have interest in football administration?

Pursue that interest! We have an amazing team of women here in the BFA who are willing to engage and guide women who are interested in the game.

One of our priorities as an association is to increase not only the number of female teams and players but to also have more women in football administration.

Who is your inspiration?

Tebogo Lebotse Sebego. I love her work/life balance, her ability to balance being a wife, mother, working woman, a sports volunteer and just living her life.

She calls it ‘The art of being TLS’! Seeing that kind of love and passion for everything she does is inspirational.

Speaking of ‘living your life’, who is Carol outside the office? What makes you tick?

I am a mother to an amazing 10-year-old girl, Anaya Dube.

I am an MA Media and Communications student.

I love running and all things fitness related.

Been out of action with a knee injury but my ideal day starts off with a work out, I believe that sets a proper tone for a good day.

And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

Recovering from a minor operation, which is the final stage of fixing me up to getting me back to doing everything I love, so no major plans this weekend except to rest.

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