Rollers draw Lesotho side
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.
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It’s do or die for Zebras
The senior national team, the Zebras, is currently in Equatorial Guinea to for an African Cup of Nations Qualifiers tie. Before they departed, the team’s coach, Mogomotsi Mpote, had his troops train in Morocco. This was through the agreement between the two countries.
The agreement between the BFA and the Fédération Moroccan Football Association states that the two nations will work together to organize friendly matches between their respective national teams. It also allows the establishment of football camps for the youth categories (U-15, U-17, and U-20), this includes women’s national teams.
The national team has played over 180 minutes in its two qualifying matches against Tunisia and Libya. Currently, the Zebras, Lesotho and Liberia are the only teams that haven’t scored yet in the competition (this is correct by press time on Friday).
Before the match against Equatorial Guinea match, the local boys who were once known as the whipping boys of Africa in the early 2000s, were languishing at the bottom of the log standings in group J. They lost their first match away to Libya on June 1, 2022. However, they managed to salvage a point against Tunisia last year.
Before the team left for Equatorial Guinea, coach Mpote urged his players to focus on keeping their hopes of making a return trip to the AFCON finals alive after an 11 year absence since the maiden appearance in 2012. He noted that they would not allow their opponents to score and would ensure that they would get a draw.
Despite the various changes that have occurred in the two countries’ football landscape, the two teams have only met once before. In 2010, the local boys defeated the Equatorial Guinea team in a friendly match, which ended in an emphatic win for the visitors. Since then, the two sides have realised different fortunes in FIFA rankings, with Equatorial Guinea ranked 51 places above the Zebras.
Meanwhile, in their last six games, Guinea has only managed to win one of them. They drew with Rwanda and Togo in September 2022 friendlies. They have found the back of the net just twice in their six games. On the other hand, the Zebras, won one match against Zambia and lost four on their way to finishing at the bottom of the group with four points. At the conclusion of their previous AFCON campaign, the local boys traveled to Zambia and secured a draw.
Despite the recent results of the Guinean team, which have only managed to draw with Rwanda and Togo in their last six matches, coach Mpote is still confident that his team will perform well against the hosts.
According to the head coach, the local boys have the necessary skills and resources to perform well against any country. He noted that the team’s coaches have been studying abroad to gain a deeper understanding of the various aspects of football.
“Tactically they should also be ready. We need your (Botswana fans) usual support, when we come back from Equatorial Guinea, we will go to Francistown, and we will need you. You are our 12th player, and you are very important to us.”
OBED ITANI CHILUME STADIUM CERTIFIED
This week, the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Tuelo Serufho revealed that the Obed Itani Chilume Stadium will host the return leg of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between the local boys and Equatorial Guinea. The venue had initially failed an inspection test conducted by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). However, following the completion of the necessary works, the stadium was allowed to host the match.
According to BNSC Chief, Tuelo Serufho, the various requirements that the stadium must meet included having a designated parking area for the media and spectators, as well as having signage that will guide the spectators. He also noted that the venue now has a world-class media area.
Jagdish Shah rejects Rollers society
Township Rollers, one of the country’s most decorated football clubs with 15 premier league titles, is finding itself in a precarious situation as its long-term chief financier, Jagdish Shah, threatens to dump them if the society does not bow down to his demand of forfeiting their 20 percent interest in the company.
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Orange injects P350 000 into Phikwe marathon
Mobile network Orange Botswana is committed to supporting the development of local sport. Through its sponsorship, the company will be able to promote and market the sport. According to Maano Masisi, the company believes that sport can unite people from different backgrounds.
He stated that through the sponsorship of the marathon, the company will help promote healthy lifestyles and unity among the people of Selebi Phikwe.
The Selebi Phikwe Marathon is scheduled to take place on July 29, 2023. It is expected that it will attract international, regional, and social runners. A total of P216 000 has been allocated for the prize money for the first ten places in the 42.2 km race. For the 15km and 10km races, the LOC will give away prizes to the first five places.