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Ross Branch maneuvers through Dakar!

For the past five days, Dakar Rally fans have been glued to their screens with high level of anticipation as riders are put to their paces in the dunes of Peru. Batswana in particular have set their hopes on Ross Branch.

Branch popularly known as ‘Kalahari Ferrari’ has built a strong reputation over the last three years as the Southern African’s fastest Cross Country rider and he is proving that at the world’s most grueling off-road event. He, together with his compatriot Vincent Crosbie have dreamt of finishing the Dakar, and in a fantastic moment set-off for stage one on Monday with a 246km liaison and 84km special in store. A few issues with his GPS system saw him racing with slightly more caution than usual to avoid penalties. Despite this, he settled in comfortably to finish stage one with a 43rd place overall.

“It was slightly nerve-racking off the start line, but I’m just relieved to have gotten that first stage out of the way! Navigation is actually easier than I thought it would be. Now it’s time to put my head down, focus on the good things and have some fun,” said Branch after stage one.
His nerves had clearly settled by the time the second stage rolled in, and Branch stormed the desert terrain to affirm his nickname as the ‘Kalahari Ferrari’. It was pulsating to track the rider over the 342km special as he moved up the ranks to finish the stage in an impressive 20th place.

With a tight grip on a comfortable 30th position overall, his Dakar journey was off to an extremely promising start. A technical challenge, however, brought Branch to an unexpected crossroad. He had broken his KTM motorbike 6th gear during the second stage – a problem that could only be fixed by replacing the engine. While the solution seemed simple enough, it came with a 15 minute penalty and ultimately the cost of 8 positions overall. He debated changing the engine with the hope of making up 15 minutes, or playing it safe and riding the rest of the rally with five gears.

“We decided to take the penalty and put a new engine in, which they worked on until 3AM this morning! It’s still a long rally, and it just wasn’t worth risking engine failure at some point and throwing this opportunity away. Things like this happen at the Dakar, and we just have to work forward from here and give it our best shot. I’ll take it a bit easier today to run the new engine in,” Branch explained in his Facebook page. For day three Branch had an exceptional day running among the world’s best in the top 25 before coming home 24th, to move up to second among the rookies and 25th overall.

Botswana Motor Sport Secretary General Jackie Meyer has been quoted saying they are expecting a “greater performance from Branch and that his standing was good since he was competing with over 140 world-class rider.” The rally which has over 500 competitors in different categories will end on the 16th of this month.

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Rollers coach joins PSL side

21st June 2022
ROMAIN-FOLZ

DStv Premiership side Marumo Gallants has announced former Tiownship Rollers coach, Romain Folz as their head coach for the upcoming 2022/2023 season.

“Coach Folz comes with an extensive track record of leading teams abroad, and across Africa, including his previous role at Botswana-based Township Rollers F.C. The appointment comes following the expiration of outgoing coach Malesela’s contract,” said Gallants chairman Abram Sello

“‘We welcome Coach Romain Folz to the team, he brings an impressive and energetic approach to football that we believe will be a great fit for Marumo Gallants”. “Folz officially takes over the role of Gallant’s coach from the end of June 2022.”

For his part, Folz said “I am very happy and honoured to join Marumo Gallants F.C. and a league such as the PSL. My first words are for our fans. I can only tell them that all the efforts and work we will put in every single day is for them. We want to make them proud, and I will dedicate all my time and energy to reach that goal,’ said Folz.”

The 31 year old former Rollers coach becomes the second Frenchman to take charge of Gallants, following in the footsteps of current Cameroon national team assistant coach. Furthermore, it is not only in the neighbouring South Africa where Folz’s name is heard on the corridors as he has also emerged as one of the candidates for the Simba SC coaching job in Tanzania. Former Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter has also been linked with the post.

“Township Rollers coach Romain Folz is one of the coaches in the running for the coaching job at Simba in Tanzania. He is assessing his options as there is a possibility of him also coming to the PSL next season. The coach’s South African-based representatives are talking to two PSL clubs,” said the source.

Meanwhile according to the reports, Folz is a nomadic coach who always walks away from teams. There were reports in Ghana before he joined Mapalastina in December indicating that he terminated his contract with Ashanti Gold just a month into his job after ‘disagreements with the top hierarchy of the club.’ Prior to Ashanti Gold job he coached another Ghanaian team Bechem Chelsea where he lasted for only six months.

Rollers club financier Jackdish Shah said if the young tactician gets a better offer somewhere, there is nothing wrong about it. He further said Folz’s contract with Popa expired at the end of the season and as a club they were yet to table an offer for him. “If there’s a better offer somewhere what’s wrong if he goes for it. We are talking of someone’s welfare here, our league has no sponsors. There are no gate-takings.”

“In some other leagues stadiums are always full, but here that’s a different case “So, we’ve always released players for greener pastures. Same applies to coach, if an offer is great we are happy for him,” Shah said. Nevertheless, amongst players who have found a lease life under Folz are youngsters Bame Morwalela and Phenyo Serameng.

“The young tactician also managed to bring back to form the likes of Motsholetsi Sikele and Segolame Boy who finished as the club top scorer, whom seem to be enjoying a new lease of life under the coach towards the end of the season.

Following the sacking of Hassan Oktay, a Turkish born gaffer, Bennett Mamelodi who is Township Rollers Chief Executive Officer (CEO) made a brave prediction saying “The name of the next coach at Rollers will shock a few people,” he declared.

A few days later, Rollers announced the arrival of a relatively unknown French tactician Romain Folz as the new man to take the reins at the blues who went on and signed a short contract which lapsed in May. ‘Little Ngwana,’ as Rollers supporters affectionately called him led Mapalastina to a second place finish in the league with 66 points after taking over in December. Folz’s impressive work didn’t go unnoticed, the 31 year one French tactician has joined South Africa’s Marumo Gallants.

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The ‘Mares’ off to Morocco

21st June 2022
Mares

The Mares, the senior women football team, will depart for Morocco on Sunday to participate in the African Women’s Cup of Nations (AFWON). The tournament will be held from July 4 to 23 in Morocco.

The Mares’s qualification which occurred 10 years after a similar feat by their male counterparts will begin the tournament by facing fellow debutants Burundi on the 4th of July followed group favorites Nigeria on the 7th then lastly our fellow neighbours South Africa on the 10th July.

According to Monnakgotla Mojaki, who is Botswana Football Association (BFA) General Manager, “The team was initially scheduled to leave today (Saturday) and set up the last training camp in Tunisia and play two friendly international games and depart to Morocco on the 28th July.”

The team will conduct its last training camp in Marrakech, the fourth largest city in the Kingdom of Morocco which is about 322.9 km thus 3 hrs. 25 min from Rabat where they will be based when the tournament starts. Mojaki revealed that the plan was to arrive in Morocco four days before the start of the tournament since the first game is on the 4th of July when they lock horns with Burundi.

BFA General Manager said their plan had to change because the biggest labor union in Tunisia announced a strike hence the association took a decision not to risk by taking a team to Tunisia. “With a strike that has been announced by the biggest union in Tunisia, as the association we are not quite sure when the strike will end, not sure of the consequences of the strike,” he alluded.

“Part of the our program which could have been affected by the strike was the flights into Tunisia as we were only be able to fly to Doha or Rome hence it was going to be difficult to descent to Tunisia because you had to connect with local Airlines.”

For her part, the Mares head coach Gaolethoo Nkutlwisang said she was happy with the preparation for the tournament as there is a sense of confidence in the squad further revealing that the ultimate goal is to compete. “We are going to perform to Morocco, if we don’t it will be the external factors which will be beyond us as a team,” she said in press briefing.

Coach Nkutlwisang said there is a chance for the team to qualify for the World Cup provided if they work hard to earn the desired results also noting that they are going to learn so that they come home as a better team. Meanwhile the semifinalist for the tournament will advance automatically to the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year, with another two to enter the continental play-offs.

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Tshireletso: African Long jump Champion

21st June 2022
Thalosang-Tshireletso

The just ended African Senior Championships held in Mauritius recently proved once again that Botswana is a force to be reckoned with in the field of athletics. As a result, Thalosang Tshireletso was named as the African Champion in the long jump.

The 31 year old Machaneng born athlete conquered Africa as he snatched an impressive 7.82m to become African champion eventually securing him a ticket to the World Championship slated next month in Oregon, United States (US).

As if it was enough, Tshireletso was in an uncompromising mood in the men’s triple jump registering 16.77m to win his second medal of the competition, this time around securing a silver medal.
Prior to podium finish in Mauritius, Tshireletso who is a field athlete from University of Botswana Athletics Club (UBAC) took the longest leap of 7.93m, a jump that booked him a spot at the just ended Africa Senior Championships.

In addition to that, in May, Tshireletso broke Gable Garenamotse National record (NR) after leaping 16.77m to set a NR, which stood for 23 years that comes. He also registered a personal best jump in the men’s long jump of 8.04m.

The talented jumper is under the mentorship of Guy Spencer who is based in London, UK on his training program. Their working relation dates back as far as 2012 when he was based in the UK pursuing his studies.

In an interview WeekendSport, this week, Tshireletso said even-though little attention is given to the field events, that didn’t distract him since he had a target for this season regardless of lack of support. “I have to make this career a success, put in craft in training and I was lucky as I used some of the high class equipment at the gym room. The work I endured beginning of the season has started to bear fruits hence am so happy about it,” he noted.

He said his belief in himself and his potential to become a national record-holder and an African Champion kept him motivated throughout his career. He also noted that he would like to be able to jump 8 meters in the long jump and 17 meters in the triple jump after reaching the age of 30.

“My coach always told me that African especially in field events, their peak is between 29 and 31 years, so it is the right age for me given the time I have been training hard,” he alluded.  The 31 year old athlete said people tend to think results come easily in athletics further pointing out it takes up to 10 years for an athlete to reach their peak. “For me I think it came at the right time as I started my proper training in 2011 with my current coach,” said Tshireletso.

Tshireletso was asked about the pressure that comes with being an African champion and a national record-holder. He said it was the results of the hard work and determination he put into training that resulted in his achievement. He also noted that he didn’t expect to win the gold medal. He further noted that on the day of the finals, his body responded very well hence he brought the gold medal back home.

“The medal takes me to the World Championships which initially wasn’t on the plan but I am not under pressure as I have made my own analysis of the previous world Championships.The jumps that am currently hopping will eventually take me to the finals (top 8) in the World,” said the African Champion.

Tshireletso, who is a Structural engineering Lecturer at the University of Botswana cited that his target when the season started was to get a podium finish at the commonwealth games in the triple jump which he contests as his main field event.

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