With much anticipation and hope pegged on Botswana’s motorsport sensational Ross Branch since the beginning of the Saud Arabia instalment of Dakar Rally, his ride has been wheeling with a lot of drama which shows to be channeling and beckoning to a promising climax.
On Stage 1 of the expected to be a grueling ride on the Saudi desert sand dunes, Branch clutched to his handlebars of his bike leading the Bas Dakar KTM Racing Team looking ahead to finish 752km terrain. Branch on stage one finish 14th with a time of 3 hours 30 minutes and 31 seconds. The Botswana rider was number 18 on overall and was just 8 minutes 15 seconds behind the winner United Kingdom’s Toby Price. Branch, dubbed Kalahari Ferrari after making headlines last year in his maiden appearance by finishing at position 13 before being crowned the fastest Dakar Rookie at Peru, got into the second stage hoisting the Botswana flag high up with hope.
Branch on Stage 2 took on a 367 kilometer lap and emerged victorious with a time of 3 hours 39 minutes and 10 seconds, just 1 minute and 24 seconds ahead of United Kingdom’s Sam Sunderland.The plot thickened when Stage 3 unfolded with yet a dramatic ride. The 427 kilometer lap came with a close to tragedy incident when after racing for 88 kilometers Branch’s back wheel stumbled on a rock throwing out his body out of the bike to the sand. Branch’s bike navigation tower was destroyed while he was left with a shoulder injury.
In a turn of events, Kalahari Ferrari was given assistance by rival Pablo Quintanilla from Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing. In a sportsmanship behavior manner, Quintanilla helped Branch to get back to his bike. Branch dusted himself off and galloped his bike for the remaining 339km finishing at position 46. “Had to try and find my way for over 400km and just so happy to have managed to finish the stage. Big thank you to Pablo Quintanilla for helping me back to my bike! Been cleared by the medics and thankful to be moving on to Stage 4 tomorrow,” he shared on his Facebook page Tuesday this week.
After a disappointing Stage 3 with some falling short of writing him off, on Stage 4 which was 672 kilometer, Branch put on some impressive run shedding down his huge deficit coming from number 46 to position 3. Branch made a time of 4 hours 25 minutes and 46 seconds in his near superhuman effort. “It was a tough day on the shoulder (injury), I didn’t enjoy much of the route as it was little bit tough half way through to try and navigate but I was really surprised to get into top 10 as I was hoping to get into top 20 but am happy though,” he shared with his fans on his Facebook page on Wednesday.
Though the Stage 4 of the competition was considerably longer than the previous day’s Stage, which meant more time in the saddle for all competitors in the Bike Category due to rocky condition on the terrain of Saudi Arabia as the stage was mainly dominated by massive rock formations, glowing golden in the desert light and smoothed into strange shapes by wind-blown grains of sand.
This week, the 2019/2020 league champions, Jwaneng Galaxy, announced the signing of former Lusaka Dynamos midfielder Mothusi Cooper for a period of six months.
Cooper, a 23-year-old versatile midfielder, terminated his contract with Lusaka Dynamos a few months ago due to unpaid salaries and signing-on fees. Cooper had joined the Zambian giants from Township Rollers.
In an interview with this publication this week, Tankiso Morake, Galaxy Public Relations Officer (PRO), said their head coach, Morena Ramoreboli, recommended the club to bolster their midfield.
“We felt it was necessary for us as Galaxy to increase our depth in the midfield; fortunately, Cooper was available since he has been declared a free agent,” Morake alluded.
“It is an advantage for us as Galaxy to sign a player of Cooper calibre, though we are not saying we don’t have good players. We just wanted to give the coach what he wants and also add more depth to our squad,” he said.
“It will grant coach more quality players since we are playing the CAF Championship group stage, the league games and also the Orange FA Cup.”
According to Morake, the deal favours both the player and his agent, as it will give the 23-year-old the opportunity to attract interest abroad due to participation in the CAF Championship group stages.
When contacted for comment, Bakang Moipone, who is the player’s agent, said: “The intention was never to go for a local move, but the most unfortunate thing is that as much as we had offers from other teams in Zambia, South Africa, and North Africa and also trying to poach something from Europe, it is challenging to find a foreign player slot during the January transfer window.”
Furthermore, Moipone revealed that the clubs which were interested in his services did not have the foreign slot available to register the versatile midfielder.
“We concluded by saying the player cannot wait until June without having a club; hence we opted for a local move for six months knowing that we will be able to get a club during the winter transfer window,” the player agent noted.
“We received several offers from local teams such as Rollers, Gaborone United, Orapa United and Galaxy, and it was him (Cooper) who chose Galaxy since they have qualified for the CAF Championship group stage as he believes it will give him international exposure and also create more options for him for an oversea move.”
Moipone highlighted that the move to Galaxy was not monetary. The ultimate reason was for the player to gain match fitness while anticipating moving abroad in June to further his professional career.
Meanwhile, it is reported that the former senior national team head coach Adel Amrouche is had secured a lucrative deal for troubled Zebras star Cooper.
The player, recently on Lusaka Dynamos books, is anticipated to move abroad once the 2021/2021 season ends.
The club’s name remains unknown, but sources speculate that the player will land in a team based in Belgium.
Cooper will be the third player whose overseas move is masterminded by Amrouche after secured deals for Kabelo Seakanayeng and Tumisang Orebonye to Olympique Khouribga, a club based in Morocco.
Despite the disruptions of the COVID-19 scourge to the chess fraternity calendar of events, the First Capital Bank Festive Chess Showdown tournament returns this year with improved prizes.
The tournament, which started in 2019 with a sponsorship of P22 000, will proceed with this year’s an increased backing from P42 000 to P50 000. The adjustment prompted the organizers to increase the prizes across sections. Scheduled to take place in Francistown from the 11th-13thof December, the tournament has seen a steadfast growth in sponsorship and attracting high profile players during the two years.
According to the event organizer Thapelo Molefe, the total sponsorship amounts to P49 945, a gesture that allowed them to increase prizes by 14%. The prestige section, which generally attracts highly rated players, has a top prize of P4200, an increase from P3600, while the open section got a P1000 increase to P3000. The ladies section now attracts a prize of P2000 from the previous P1800. However, the Under 18 and development section awards remain unchanged at P1500 and P300.
“The deal is solid and beneficial to both parties so that it won’t stop anytime soon. We have a telepathic understanding with the bank; they have social responsibility at the core of their business. There isn’t much of a difference except the increase in prize monies. Foreign internationals have always graced our events in numbers, and we look forward to having them again in our third installment of this magnificent undertaking,” said Molefe.
The last edition was won by Gaasite Sebetlela and WCM Refilwe Gabatshwarwe in the open and ladies section, respectively, while Monnatsheko Keletshabile emerged the champion in the prestige section.
Morale inside Gaborone United camp is high with the team oozing with confidence and licking their lips to lift the Orange FA trophy, as the team has been assured to share the P700k first prize amongst themselves should they win.
The promise was made by the club Chief financier Nicholas Zachem earlier this year as part of motivating the team following a long spell of football thirst and hunger. The players and the technical team are looking at the big carrot that has been dangled before them and have never looked back.
GU has been marauding other teams, going down for the first time 1-2 against BDF X1. The Innocent Morapedi and Pontsho Moloi mentored side is currently on 2nd position on the league log with 15 points after six games, only a point separate them with log leaders Township Rollers.
The Reds are also in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and are facing stubborn Jwaneng Galaxy in what could be a litmus test for them. Their in-form forward Thatayaone Kgamanyane is expected to lead the attack to eliminate Galaxy and face either Township Rollers or Masitaoka in the finals.
The high flying club has managed five clean sheets this season, with their goalkeeper Goitseone Phoko even voted player of the month. “It’s a great feeling to have been chosen as player of the month. The award will motivate me to perform to my level best in every game. As much as this award is mine, I would like to thank my teammates who have contributed immensely in ensuring that I keep those clean sheets,” said Phoko after pocketing P1000 cash for his toil.
GU Brand and Marketing Manager, Herbert Letsebe said the club decided to introduce monthly awards to motivate players. “This is a build up to our end of the season awards where will crown player of the season and other individual awards,” he said.