A couple of years after being in control of the elite Botswana premiership league games, Pius Mokhwela (24) has packed his whistle and stopped chasing the pigskin to focus on becoming a fully-fledged businessman. The former Botswana Premier League (BPL) referee has ventured into the business of sport marketing through a company called Papadi Sport, alongside his mentor Grant Nicolls.
The duo are said to have scored big after clinching exclusive African rights to the British brand Mitre, which they have vowed to make it a force to be reckon with across all elite football leagues across the continent. As one of the leading brands in sporting equipment, Mitre is said to have given the duo all their blessings hoping for their brand to gain formidable market share across Africa.
Papadi Sport surely looks ready to take on the Mitre assignment as Mokhwela’s partner; Nicholls brings a vast experience in sport marketing, sponsorships and branding. Nicholls is credited for bringing brands like the Italian garment, diadora to sponsor all the 16 teams in South African’s first division in 2004. He has also been instrumental with Kaizer Chiefs, Confederation of African Football (CAF) sponsorship as well as the energy company, Total.
“I am under a very impressive guidance, in order to brand our football we need such collaborations”, said Mokhwela oozing with confidence. Reflecting on the days gone by, Mokhwela said his eminent rise in football was prompted by his focus and agility to always learn from his superiors. The Tonota-born lad said it was his tertiary qualifications that truly sharpened his business acumen and prowess. “I obtained a degree in Merchandising and Retailing at Limkokwing University in 2012 and that’s where I matched what I already knew about football into a profit making project. I had to leave refereeing to pursue this project.”
Furthermore, Mokhwela said, “Nonetheless, growing up in the village it’s every boy’s dream to always dream of becoming a great footballer. Growing up I played football but I wasn’t really that good so I constantly warmed the bench while my peers took turns playing hence I resorted to refereeing all the matches when my team played. My refereeing interest grew day by day and I was then recruited by Francistown Regional Football Association (FRFA) when I was doing my Form 4. I trained with referees and started doing regional games and tournaments in the region. In 2012 when I moved to Gaborone for my tertiary education I continued refereeing and everything went well. I was promoted into the national first division league in 2013, same year I was already in the premier league till 2016 December when I blew my final whistle in order to pursue my other interests.”
“I decided to register my own sports company because I already knew which areas I was going to focus on. Papadi Sport specializes in digital marketing, strategy, branding and sponsorships among others.” Quizzed how he landed the quest to work with an international brand such as mitre and be entrusted with growing the brand despite his experience, Mokhwela said the relationship started towards the end of 2016 when he bid for the account through written proposals.
“I sent them a proposal and they showed interest. They invited me for presentation and they wanted a local partner so I was at the right place at the right time. Mitre want to dominate Africa, the same way they have taken Europe so having local lads who understand the local landscape of the game is ideal.”
Already, Papadi Sport is on the brink of clinching a deal with the Lesotho premier league and three South African premiership sides. “We want to conquer Africa and that means every country will need our services. Lesotho looks done hopefully in a month or two. We are already at an advanced stage of our negotiations.” Although, Mokhwela is yet to strike a deal on the home soil, all is not lost as the initial support was through the purchase of Mitre balls by the local lads and he hopes more will happen in the not too distant future.
“My focus is to start here at home, to bring the difference, the BTC premiership is one of the fastest growing leagues in the continent. We introduced the balls during the Mascom Top 8 games and we gave them extra to appreciate the relationship. There is uniform now, this is the style we see only in international leagues where the match has same match balls used throughout the season. We can only grow from such collaborations,” he concluded.