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 negotiations involving Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) over elite league sponsorship have suffered a setback as the local brewer this week took what it termed a ‘difficult’ decision to shut down operations.
This effectively means that football sponsorship is back in its dark corner as all efforts to go back to the field take another nasty twist in the midst of ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is regrettable that this latest total ban on alcohol sales has resulted in the suspension of KBL operations, which will remain in place for as long as the alcohol ban persists. KBL continues its efforts to engage government on this critical issue, which is having an enormous impact on the industry and its extensive value chain,” the company explained.
Although not proudly maintained at Lekidi Football Centre, the company is said to have abandoned talks on explanations revolving around ‘lack of funds.’In the initial agreement, sources say that it was settled that KBL would sponsor the Botswana Football League at a tune of P30million for a period of three years.
It is maintained that the deal was to be relooked and redefined to fit the sponsorship modalities of today’s game.Highly placed sources speaking with this publication however state that BFA is assisting BFL to cajole other companies to come on board as football is about to return to the field.
Top of the list is ABSA Bank who have remained afloat despite the impacts of the virus. The bank is said to be committed to football but sources say it will take a considerable amount of persuasion to see the bank increasing sponsorship.
KBL, in the first phase, were willing to commit without much difficulties but after the storm of COVID-19, the company was to take a back seat and played a waiting game. They reasoned that the continuous lockdown the country has gone under has left them with little income than expected.
But according to sources, KBL is still expressing pleasure to engage with the association again and will further illustrate their willingness to come on board as soon as the corona virus situation subsides.It is said KBL has requested further information regarding sponsorship value from the association and once satisfied, negotiations will resume.
However, some administrators within the National Executive Committee believe KBL’s parting message does not inspire confidence. “KBL‘s phase is over, they gave us hope but it is difficult to keep track of them, COVID-19 has affected every plan,” one member shared.
At the close last season, way before the corona virus impacted the country negatively; BFA revealed that it had long compiled its situation analysis of sponsorship value for the local game. It was understood that the property that is the Premier League could be purchased at a value P 15 million over 43 premier league games.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) President, Maclean Letshwiti.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) is engaged in protracted talks to stage a mini-league as lee-way to ascend into a proper football season by August this year.
The idea is to keep players fit and all football structures functioning as time pressure mounts.Informants say the idea is discussed at the competition office and will soon be forwarded to the National Executive Committee (NEC) for further deliberations.
This therefore means that all leagues across the country will be played for only one round until August where a new full football season will resume. Football has never returned to the field for almost 10 months now due to the corona virus.
The situation on the ground looks gloomy as COVID-19 cases continue to rise with each passing day. Football clubs are also feeling the pinch with Sua Flamingos becoming the latest victims. The club has been forced to suspend operations as players and members of the technical team test positive for the deadly virus.
While playing a mini-league is a last resort, it is mentioned that no team will be promoted or relegated after the completion of the games.Sources say it is better than folding arms when teams are continuing to pay players without kicking the ball.
The idea of the mini-league therefore means that there will be no prize money but teams will likely survive with grants from identifiable sponsors. Already, the Botswana Football League (BFL) has secured a P 5 million television deal for over three years.
The BFL think tanks contemplate to augment the television deal with sponsorship grants from ABSA bank. According to information, this will keep the league and its secretariat running until everything gets back to normalcy.
“It is true we are thinking to stage a mini league looking at what we have but this is still an infant idea, we are discussing and we will engage NEC going forward,” a member of the association shared.BFA leadership finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place as the motion to kick start the league in February was shot down by the assembly in October of last year.
The movers of the motion argued that high temperatures usually recorded in the South of Sahara desert negatively affects player performance and their overall health conditions. However, there were intentions to commence the league at the earliest possible time but the task force together with the Ministry of Sport wanted players to be tested and football fields be fumigated regularly to avoid spreading the virus.
Early this week, the BFL leadership engaged the Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB) to give an update on how football will return. However, this publication cannot adequately establish the detailed plan of the league.
Boteti based side, Orapa United were quick to snatch back Zebras left-back, Lesenya Ramoraka, tying him with a two-year deal after he was released this week by TS Galaxy.
The 26 year-old defender left The Ostriches in 2018 to join Highlands Park who later sold their status last year to renowned football agent Tim Sukazi of TS Galaxy. Ramoraka’s contract was to end this year July.
At the time of the sale, the team then opted not to register him for another season hoping to register him in the January transfer but his injury kept him out for longer than anticipated, forcing TS Galaxy to release him as he was free to start to negotiate with any team that may be interested in him.
“We have signed Ramoraka after assessing his injury and he is in Orapa as we speak doing his rehab.The injury is not bad and we expect him to resume light training anytime from mid- February,” said Kabo William, the club spokesperson.
Ramoraka left an impressive mark at Highlands Park where he played 29 games in all competitions and netting only once. Lee, as he is known in football circles, is one of the most trusted left backs in the country and has been a vital part of the Zebras with his absence felt at the national team.
“The team had wanted to keep him but they were just concerned that his injury was taking long to heal and they opted to release him as you cannot have a player out for too long more especially who is a foreigner,” said a source.
“He had survived the changes at the team and you have to also note that the coach who brought him, Owen Da Gama also just joined TS Galaxy and he is one of the players that he trusted and used so it is not a matter of performance but they couldn’t afford to have him on the side-lines for too long.”
Orapa United have also announced the signing of other players that include; Thabiso Boti formerly with Notwane, Kutlo Kolagano from City Eagles, Galagwe Moyana who was released by Township Rollers, Kagisano Mungu from TAFIC and the team promoted Phemelo Pushudi from their development side.
The Ostriches have released goalkeeper Bophelo Kealeboga who has signed a 2 year deal with Sua Flamingos, Mothusi Johnson who retraced his steps back to Gaborone United, Baboloki Makhura and Abdullah Hamisi.