Premier League defending champions Township Rollers are set to commence championship football as November comes to an end.The draw conducted last week has pit the runaway log leaders with Bantu Football club, a Lesotho based outfit.
The two clubs are expected to battle out on a two legged affair where the aggregate winner will find their way into the group stages. Rollers are seeking to replicate home scripts (of modern premier league era) to be the first team to go past preliminary rounds and enter the often difficult phase of group stages for the second year running.
Before Rollers’ upward trajectory, the last team to play in the group stages in Botswana was Notwane Football club, now struggling to reclaim country wide appeal. The first leg is expected to be played in Gaborone on November 27 while the return leg will be played in Maseru exactly after two weeks. Bantu FC are obviously a closed book for Township Rollers to read, but their history in CAF championship has everything to scare the Jagdish Shah funded project.
Unlike Township Rollers, the Sudanese club does remember the last time they play group stage football.On one hand Rollers are aware of the monkey on their back. While time and again, the team complains of adverse conditions of African continent coupled with ballooning budget in order to dominate, they have in the past leant that to proceed to the next round is not child’s play.
In the last two trials, Rollers could not go round the preliminary stage as they were condemned by South African power house Kaizer Chiefs before CNAPS, a club from Madagascar dumped them out of the competition on the following year. However, last year, a side driven by Serbian born mentor Nikola Kavazovic was a far better side. The knocked out Young Africans of Tanzania before claiming the scalp of Sudanese side Al Merrikh.
More often than not, championship football tells a story about the performance of a country on the global stage and also paints a picture of competitiveness about respective elite leagues.The Lesotho side has dominated their league over the last few years, and records show that Bantu FC has won the league three times but are unstoppable in the domestic cups.
They have won the Lesotho Cup 8 times.
Rollers, on this regard are far much better in terms of domestic achievements. Records show that they have 14 premier league titles and are the only team in this country to ever reach this feat. As from January 2019, Rollers newly appointed coach Rudolph Zapata should accept that the club’s season will be on a more fragile ground.In the same month, the team will await with bated breath Mascom top 8 draw semi-final, where any team could prove dangerous.
They will face a pivotal month which has the potential to make or break their campaign, with Orapa United, Jwaneng Galaxy or Gaborone United or Sharps Shooting Stars on the way before reaching finals of top 8.Three competitions are on the line and in most cases, realistically, one is not within reach.In recent seasons, The Blues have been invariably derailed when a cluster of high profile games with different honours at stake, put hurdles in their path.
This is precisely why previous coaches understood why there are doubts about whether they could overcome the tendency to implode.But last season championship campaign was the best in the history of Rollers. They defied all odds and went all the way to play in group stages, a feat that Zapata hopes to achieve as well.
Gaborone United was this week crowned 2021/2022 Botswana Premier League (BPL) champions following their 1-0 win over the holders, Jwaneng Galaxy. Thero Setsile’s 13th minute’s goal was enough to seal the league championship, ending 13 years of drought from the Old Naledi outfit.
With two games to go before the top-flight season wraps up, Gaborone United opened a seven points gap to second placed Township Rollers having accumulated 63 points from twenty eight games. The Money machine were the first team to open a new chapter in the history books of Botswana football, when they were crowned the inaugural 2008/09 be Mobile Premiership champions, that came up with P1 million as prize money. Thereafter the club has been on the league drought as it could only manage winning Coca Cola FA Cup in 2012, Mascom top 8 twice in 2013 and 2015. They also won the Orange FA cup last season.
The return of Zackhem as the club financier signaled a new era with a number of galactic signings for the 2021/2022 season. The team brought into their fold big names in local football; Kekaetswe Moloi, Lesego Galenamotlhale and Joel Mogorosi. The arrival of enterprising left wing back Mothusi Johnson, dribbling wizard Mpho Kgaswane and hard tackling midfielder, Lebogang Ditsele made the job easier for the coaches.
Attacker Onkabetse Makgantai also joined the marauding attackers in Thatayaone Kgamanyane and Thero Setsile to make their front line combination the deadliest in the league. Both Kgamanyane and Setsile have netted 34 goals this season with the goal minder Goitseone Phoko keeping 20 clean sheets thus far while conceding just 10 goals. GU is still on the Orange FA Cup race and football commentators believe that they are the favorites looking at the quality of their squad.
As it stands should the Money Machine win all their remaining games, they stand a chance to equal the highest championship winning points record of 76 points which set by Mochudi Center chiefs during the 2007-2008 football season. That record stood for 14 years and Gaborone United could equal that feat should they win their remaining games against Sua Flamingos and struggling Notwane. The Money Machine made the bold statement begging of the 2021/2020 football season when they won 11 games straight games without even conceding a goal.
The Reds, who are under the guidance of Innocent Morapedi, a seasoned coach and his assistant Pontsho Moloi, has been consistent in the title race. In the process, the Old Naledi side has scored 59 goals while conceding the least goals (10 goals) and has a superior goal difference of 49 goals. Gaborone United success breaks Township Rollers and Mochudi Center Chiefs dominance as the only teams to have won the league title more than any other club in the last 13 seasons. GU’s proximity to money and talent were key this season.
Domestically since GU last won the league title, Mochudi Center Chiefs have won it three times; whilst the most decorated football club with 16 titles, Rollers has been dominating the league, winning five titles on the spin in five seasons from 2013-14 to 2018-19. Last season, Jwaneng Galaxy was crowned champions for the very first time due to being at the top of the table when the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the season to be prematurely halted with ten games to play.
After two years of no action across various sports codes including softball, Botswana Softball Association (BSA) is going back to the grounds to resuscitate the sport.
This weekend all roads lead to Selibe Phikwe for the top eight ladies championship. The eight ladies teams comprise the top four ladies teams from the south and north regions. They will then come together and form eight teams and battle it out this weekend at the Phikwe Softball Grounds and Area 2 Mowana Ball Park. The competing ladies teams are Titans, Police, Vikings, UB Giants, Rail giants, Scramblers, Carats and Ghetto Yankees. The champions will be crowned thereafter.
Softball Association Public relations officer, Boingotlo Marope explained that this tournament is not only for ladies, she said men’s championship will be held at Gaborone on the 28th May 2022. She said they have noticed that everything is confined to Gaborone as their headquarters in the southern region. As a result they have decided to take other activities to the northern region as well. “We are trying to grow softball, we don’t want everything to surround Gaborone only which is why the ladies tournament will be held at Selebi Phikwe in the northern region to bring equality.”
However, she explained that the reason they were missing in action is because of Covid 19. “We saw government cautionary trying to protect everyone by putting certain restrictions as spots had to stop for 12 months, we welcomed 12 months to protect Batswana. As a results that lead to the closure as there were no games”.
In addition Marope said they currently don’t have sponsors however private sector has always come through. Bofinet has to cut the sponsorship but that is not due to Covid 19 crisis. “Bofinet has showed commitment, they promised that as soon as they are settled they will come to our door knocking again,” she added.
Marope further said as a results they rely on their tight budget. Few of players has been sponsored, some has to dig from their own pockets, some parents cannot sent their children as some had to quit. “We have worked with our tight budget to assist teams and hoping that in the coming season we can have somebody to assist”.
The Botswana national boxing team recently returned from the zone 4 championship held in Mozambique. The team was led by head coach Thebe Setlalekgosi, two assistant coaches, Gibson Rauwe and Pearl Mooketsi. Two referees and judges, Gaseitsewe Ponatshego and Linda Mooketsi.
In the women’s category, Lethabo Modukanele was representing Botswana in the 48 kg division, while Phekie Bele and Sadie Kenosi were competing in the 57 kg and 60 kg categories, respectively. In the men’s category, Kobamelo Molatlhegi was representing the country in the 52 kg division, while Rajab Mahomed was competing in the under 51 kg category.George Molwantwa was competing for under 57 kg category and Treasure Moremi was competing for under 60kg category.
The boxers came home with seven medals, Modukanele came home with a gold medal, Kenosi, Rajab, Molatlhegi all came home with silver medals. While Moremi, Molwantwa and Phekie Bele all came home with bronze medals.
According to Moitshepi Nkabiti, the public relations officer of the Botswana Boxing Association, the team performed well and that they were hoping that Rajab would also bring home a gold medal. However, due to an eye injury, he could not participate in the finals.
He stated that, “though some people might think that how our team performed is not an achievement it is a big achievement to us. Other countries came with 19 boxers while we only came with our seven boxers, and they all came back with medals. That is something that we have to be proud of I really commend them for their performance. Having 5 players making it to the finals is really a blessing and we should not take it for granted.”
According to Nkabiti, Botswana was ranked fourth in the zone 4 championship, which was held in Mozambique. Other countries that participated in the tournament included South Africa, Zambia, Eswatini, and Seychelles. They all had a total of 19 boxers. Lesotho also had eight boxers.