The juggernaut that used to be Mochudi Center Chiefs is no more. Lurching from the sublime to the brutal, Magosi as Center Chiefs is popularly known have been anything but dull. The statistics of the premier league game say it all. Six games, no win. Are Magosi already losing influence? STAFF WRITER MOSIMANEGAPE TSHOSWANE examines Centre Chiefs’ downward spiral.
It has been evident for some time that there would be something serious at stake when the 2018-19 premier league campaigned started. But what was less evident until this past Wednesday was that Chiefs might fall into relegation zone owing to disastrous start of the campaign. That they missed out of the last edition of the Mascom Top 8 for the first time in 6 years was a first tip of an iceberg before reality sinks that trouble has finally arrived.
But as preparations for this season began, it would later become obvious that the team led by little known gaffer, Philane Mabhena failed to off-load pressure on themselves when recruitment was done. As things stand, it is becoming apparent that Chiefs played the first opening six games just to experiment and not to compete. It has never happened to a team that used to give Township Rollers a serious run for their money that they found themselves in such a dangerous territory-even when it is still early days.
It is hard to know where to start when detailing the key events in previous seasons that have not once offered moments of quiet stability. Chiefs have changed administrators, changed coaches, and changed the bulk of the team. Since a time administrators started fighting for the control of the club, the team never bought, but resorted to grasp young talent and it has unsuccessfully yielded results. On the other hand, they failed to nurture and protect them.
Since lifting silverware in 2014 -15, Chiefs budget could no longer be examined but it is a fact they have lost hordes of followers. All these pieced together are clear reasons the team is slowly fading away in the Premier League. Last season alone, Chiefs played better during the first round though with annoying mixed results, at the pricier end – be in form of midfielder Lesego Lubinda (now with Notwane) managed a couple of good games in the first round, then faded bafflingly; Assistant coaches Innocent Morapedi and Pontsho Moloi finally provoked boos from their home crowd before finding form while Thatayaone Ramatlapeng and Mmoloki Kufikwa remained equal parts heroes and villains due to their inability to convert clear –cut chances.
The team currently is perched on the 11th spot, with only three points and 11 full points behind log leaders Jwaneng Galaxy who are yet to lose a game. However, few at the team, or anywhere else, are still giving the team much hope of redemption after they drew with league rookies Prisons XI on Tuesday. The team undeniably put up a spirited performance.
But again ,at this point and given the way the team is playing, it is possible to look down the fixture list and predict, without seeming too outlandish, that Chefs might again struggle to break into the top eight bracket. The way they had been playing certainly offered no clue that they might somehow salvage hope from a run-in that would give a title-challenger pause, let alone a team facing relegation.
Chiefs’ media liaison Clifford Mogomotsi admitted that the team is indeed under a difficult situation. He cries lack of finances as well as unavailability of players who cannot play. “We have never hidden the fact that we are in trouble, we need finances to run the team. You must also recall that our foreign players (Morris Ruzivo and Terrence Mandaza) are yet to play pending work permit,” Mogomotsi said.
He also stated that their coach is facing similar problem of a delayed work permit. However, the turning point – the moment that should spark the revival that will give Chiefs unforeseen hope of avoiding the drop – will surely present itself in the Security Systems game. They will have to confront the team equally struggling to keep up with the pace of the league. Systems also desperately need to get back to winning ways. They are equal on points with Chiefs.
Magosi will hope that the winning against Systems becomes a moral boost before facing marauding giant in Township Rollers in the next fixture. But if anything has been learned at the Toronto outfit the previous seasons-by fans and staff – it is that players can defy expectations. Too many of the supposed new stars have been anything but or have revealed devastating temperament flaws (and rumours from well-placed sources suggest growing resentment among the old guard of players about the new mix of money and arrogance in the dressing room).
But, equally, some of the players regarded as likely to fail at the top level are expected to perform heroics. Phenyo Molefhe who fell out of favour at Police XI earlier last season, has been central to the team’s games particularly those that ended in a draw. Former player, Elvis Meleka whose tactical nous extends to orchestrating dangerous moves towards the opposing end, has chipped in with some golden moments. Conceivably, Chiefs loss to resilient Rollers will be acceptable but for them to be wiped out by new entrants will surely see them shrinking.
The mega transfer of one Thatayaone Ditlhokwe from Township Rollers to South Africa’s SuperSport United has left Gaborone United (GU) desperate for the ‘purchase benefits’ and the latter has consistently phoned Rollers to pay back their share for supposedly grooming the player.
Ditlhokwe, a former GU defender, was sold to SuperSport at an estimated fee of P 2 million late last year. When the sale was negotiated, and it was agreed that GU will receive at least 15% of the sale, sources say.
This therefore means Rollers has to pay GU P 300 000.
According to reliable sources, Rollers is yet to process GU’s benefits because SuperSport United is taking long to complete the transfer fee. However, Jagdish Shah, the financer of Rollers, is said to be ready to pay GU’s dues as soon as the time is right.
In any case, it is said the two clubs are fighting a boardroom brawl. Regarded as the fiercest cross town rivals, GU was incensed to lose Ditlhokwe to Rollers in the first place. The underlying scuffle, to date, is catalysed by misplaced documents and trust that has grown seriously thin between the two clubs.
It is said that GU cannot find the contract between Rollers and SuperSport so as to officially bill their claim. Sources put it that GU had written twice to Rollers asking them to forward a copy of the said contract.
In the first instance, it is said that Rollers cooperated and did as GU requested. However, GU is said to have lost the contract and went back to Rollers for another copy. Rollers according to sources then refused to budge. There are claims that GU is now stuck in one place.
Rollers media liaison Phemperetlhe Pheto said it is difficult to talk about contracts to third parties. He however implored GU to avail the contract for them to claim their fees without doubts.
“I am disturbed to talk about contracts of players to media but bear in mind that we cannot act when GU is failing to submit what they have as a proof,” he said.
When Rollers tried to sign Argentinean born gaffer, Rudolph Zapata, three seasons ago, GU fought tooth and nail to block him from joining the ranks of their number one enemy. They delayed to release his work permits accusing him and Rollers of sinister motives.
To this date, GU is livid that Rollers nearly paralyzed their camp when they recruited striker Tumisang Orebonye, defender Jackson Lesole and the very same Ditlhokwe, to offer them lucrative contracts.
Just a year ago, the fight between the two clubs almost took a nasty turn. It started when GU wrote to the Botswana Football Association (BFA) questioning the coaching credentials of Rollers former coach, Frank Nuttall, together with his assistants, Leutwetse Tshireletso and Zachariah Mudzazi. Then, GU was seen to be shifting posts when consistently asked to rectify the situation involving their coach, Pontsho Moloi. It was found out that Moloi was not fit to coach in the elite level according to the requirements of club licensing.
But as things stand, GU will count on the words of Shah, whom many football administrators label as a ‘man of integrity.’
Ditlhokwe signed a three year deal with SuperSport last year. The 22-year-old helped Rollers to lift the Botswana Premier League trophy in the 2018/19 season and was rewarded with a national team call up.
The Botswana international played an important role for his side in the 2019 COSAFA Cup in South Africa as captain, Ditlhokwe also helped Zebras finish 2nd in the tournament losing to Zambia in the final.
The Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture Development has agreed to refurbish the dilapidated Molepolole Sports Complex.
The development consequently means premier league teams and local clubs will not be able to utilise the facility in the upcoming season.
The stadium with a carrying capacity of 6 600, was earmarked by premier league rookies Masitaoka as home-ground.
The ministry has further revealed that the stadium will need a budget of about 5 million Pula to relay the turf and renovate a water drainage system that has worn out. The contractors are expected to commence work in the not so distant future.
The pitch surface is artificial and was first installed in 2008 at FIFA’s request and the presidency of Philp Makgalemele. In 2010, it was chosen as one of two host stadiums for the COSAFA Under-20 Challenge.
“We have funds to refurbish the Molepolole Stadium for two main projects; the relaying of turf and renovation of water reticulation system. The stadium will therefore be out of bounds when contracted companies begin their works,” the Chairman of Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) confirmed.
The Ministry of sport is further expected to file a communication with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development notifying them to start a monitoring exercise when the renovations begin.
The reconstruction of this stadium and others is however feared to coincide with the long intention of the government to improve sport infrastructure throughout the country.
Earlier this year, the sport ministry has also requested a budget of about P 33 million to renovate and improve the VIP lounge of Francistown Sport Complex, now known as Obed Chilume stadium.
The President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi, said the government continues to improve sporting infrastructure as part of the grassroots sport development programme. He said this in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) two years ago.
This financial year, P50 million was allocated for the construction of 10 community sport facilities or mini stadia, around the country.
“These will be basic sport facilities for youth recreation, and will consist of boundary wall, an artificial turf, soccer pitch and changing rooms with ablution facilities,” he said.
The facilities are earmarked for Tonota, Mmadinare, Bobonong, Tutume, Kasane, Goodhope, Kanye, Rakops, Tsabong and Moshupa.
Enterprising midfielder, Dirang Moloi, is in talks with premier league rookies Masitaoka Football Club about possibilities of joining as a free agent, having last played for troubled Extension Gunners last season.
Moloi, touted as the best midfielder of his generation, is said to be ready to hang his boots but not before playing for Masitaoka, the promising outfit whose administration is now the envy of other premier teams, especially the older ones.
However, it appears that there is a stumbling block as Moloi is requesting for conditions that are beyond the club’s reach. Moloi, with a substantial premier league experience, where player wages are not always guaranteed, wants to partner with the club through his side businesses to make profit.
Sources say Moloi does not desperately yearn for a monthly salary, but wants some benefits as the club makes money through other means.
Operating as a football company, Masitaoka has plenty of sponsors and it is why Moloi wants a share of the profits for each replica jersey the team sells. He also wants the club to partner with his security company to further rake in profits rather than waiting on a meagre salary that is not certain especially during turbulent periods of corona virus. This, according to sources may weigh heavily on Masitaoka’s situation that consequently will collapse the talks.
All the while, it is said Moloi will no longer be a first-choice selection but Neslon Olebile, the team’s head coach, hopes that his personality and experience will serve to inspire the rest of the attacking options, most notably the younger players.
Masitaoka have always sought to have leaders in their squad, players who have won big games and can bolster the collective belief. Their hunger to sign Galabgwe Moyana in the next season is rooted in part, by what he could bring away from the field.
Moloi, some reports say may join partly on probation and eventually sign to play as the season goes on, but not to inspire, as he once declared he is about to quit Botswana football.
The club sources however say that there is no option built into the deal for him to join them with non- football conditions.
Masitaoka are however desperate for Moloi’s services and will want him to bring calmness and stability to a side that has begun to dream big. The Molepolole base outfit is eyeing a spot in the finals of Orange FA Cup. Once football resumes, the club will play against Calendar Stars in the quarter finals.
Moloi has won a handful of trophies and medals during his salad days at Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers.