The sixth time BTC premiership and also defending champions, Township Rollers are on the verge of clinching their 7th Btc title making it 16 titles on their trophy cabinet. Mapalastina as they are affectionately known within football circles are currently sitting on the summit of the log standings with 41 points after 19 games.
Mapalastina is the only club in Botswana premier league to have won 6 BTC championships since the local network giants took over from another communication mobile operator Mascom in 2008/2009 season. The Blues that was under the tutelage and guidance of Zimbabwean Gaffer, Rahman Gumbo went on to clinch the title with 78 points beating their closest rivals Mochudi Centre Chiefs by 13 points on that season. Rollers became the second team to win the title after their cross-town rivals Gaborone United tasted the first BTC title during its first instalment. Then,the company was popularly known as be- MOBILE.
In 2010/2011 season, nothing really changed. The Gaborone giants defended the title, the first ever team to win the BTC championship back to back. The Blues were mentored and drilled by Zambian gaffer Wesley Mondo. From there on, the team went for fine tuning than tactical over haul. The Gaborone giants went on to win the 2013/14 season leap frogging BDF X1. Although it would later become controversial, it also became rather clear that Rollers were ‘defaulter champions’ more because BDF XI were docked 6 points after taking football matters to court. Rollers won the league with 67 points.
In the 2015/16 edition, more controversy over flowed. Both Rollers and Center Chiefs battled hard and long for the crown. Rollers were also docked points for fielding midfielder Ofentse Nato whom players status committee body declared that he was a defaulter. As a consequence, Botswana football association ordered that a play off game between Rollers and Chiefs be played. Popa thrashed their rivals Chiefs by 5-1 in a game played at Molepolole sports complex.
A similar pattern and story played itself out in the following season. The blues went on to scoop 2016/2017 title under Mogomotsi Mpote who was interim coach after Englishman manager Mark Harrison went to join Absa premiership outfit Baroka FC as Technical Director. Last season, Rollers were swashbuckling as they clinch all the titles- the BTC and Mascom top 8 cup.
Will they make 4 in row?
Of their recent form the blue machine has been blowing hot and cold, more especially after the arrival of Argentine coach Rudolph Zapata. The team began to score less than 2 goals per game and consequently their play form deteriorate with some senior team players questioning the Argentinean tactics. Indicators point out that Popa will be under immense pressure to defend the title, as the two mining giants (Orapa United and Jwaneng Galaxy) are on their neck. Lastly year runners up Jwaneng Galaxy is currently sitting on spot number 2 with 39 points while Orapa united are on third place with 38 points.
As the second half of the season gathers momentum, Popa find themselves battling double sided problems. They have lost most of their regular and influential players like Simisani Mathumo who joined his former manager Nikola Kavazovic at Free State Stars. Mosha Gaolaolwe and Gape Mohutshiwa joined NFD side TS Galaxy in South Africa while their experienced Goalkeeper Mwampule Masule joined Chippa United who lost their keeper to Kaizer chiefs.
Athletics is one of the sporting activities that for many years has been consistently performing extremely well in international competitions. One of the reasons is the availability of qualified and experienced coaches, who have been working tirelessly on the ground to ensure that they scout talent and develop more athletes.
For the first time after eons, football clubs plying their trade in the elite league are walking in the shadow of the undefined with nothing concrete agreed and on sight before the commencement of the football season.