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A world cup of surprises

A lot of football fanatics have been treated to surprise and sometimes shock these past couple of weeks. The 2018 World Cup hosted by Russia has had many if not all at the edges of their seats, leaving many questions than answers.

Germany for one has yet to find the many answers lingering in their minds. One of which is how they failed it to make it past the group stages, and break many hearts that day. A few minutes after Germany lost to Mexico in its opening game — not fortuitously, but deservedly— Germany head coach, Joachim Löw was informed that, in three of the previous four World Cups, the team that entered the tournament as the titleholder had fallen in the group stages. The coach seemed to have waved off the notion that Germany might go the same route.

But it came out to be true. France were crowned champions in 1998 overwhelming favorites, Brazil by 3-0, but 4 years later, The Blues  crumbled out of the group stages without registering a win. In 2010, Italy took the same route when they also fell on the same stage after winning the cup in 2006. The World cup champions jinx continued when Spain left the 2014 party earlier than anticipated. They won the 2010 edition.

This, as the last two weeks have amply proved, is not a World Cup where anyone should be offering guarantees. Germany, that great constant of international soccer, the permanent semifinalist, has long gone, to the raucous delight of Brazil and England and the more understated relief of the hosts Russia, France, Belgium and the rest.

Those nations that remain should have seen enough to know the dangers of counting their chicks before they hatch. Spain sacked its manager on the eve of the tournament and literally offered nothing. Together with Argentina, they were sitting on a time ticking bomb more especially that there was always a widening rift between players and coaches.  It surprised a few when Spain left the stage at the hands of tournament hosts Russia.  Argentina as captained by the great Lionel Messi struggled from the qualifying rounds right into the finals. 

It was not surprising when the nation called for the early exit of Coach Jorge Sampaoli. They were never at their best. Many were not astonished when France demolished them in the last 16 round. Even those contenders whose progress has been a little more serene — Brazil, France, Belgium, Croatia and England — can have little doubt that the old rules no longer apply. Brazil has played only in flashes but remains tournament favorites. France has conceded four goals, but also looks threatening.

The most impressive performances have come from nations outside the established elite: Croatia’s ruthless demolition of an admittedly chaotic Argentina; Mexico’s perfectly planned, expertly executed exploitation of all of Germany’s flaws. Colombia’s riotous return to form against Poland and unexpected fall from grace against the ambitious England.

But lo and behold, do not forget Sweden. They were out as the last games were played, but quickly turned around the situation when they frustrated highly rated Mexico to top the group. They are into the last 8 round where England awaits. This tournament, thus far, has belonged not to soccer’s great power- houses, but to its petite supposedly under dogs. Perhaps we should have seen that coming, when Argentina only crept into the tournament by the skin of its teeth, and when both the Dutch and the Italians failed to do even that.

At a time when the gap between the richest clubs and the rest has been allowed — encouraged, in fact — to become a chasm, international soccer has, refreshingly, blessedly, traveled in the opposite direction. It is more democratic than ever. Nations with less glittering histories — but good coaching, a sense of identity and players littered throughout Europe’s great leagues — no longer have quite so much to fear. The giants do not look quite so fearsome when you see them every week.

Of course, it is easy to say that after the group stage of a World Cup. The pattern of the tournament is familiar, and yet somehow forgotten, every four years. The first round of group games is cagey, cautious and offers little. More shocks are anticipated along the way. Uruguay is still a complex solid side. They have together with Brazil conceded a single goal and are likely to meet along the way.

It is tight; it is unpredictable as the last 8 teams battle for the ultimate crown. This time around the world’s two greatest players are nowhere to be seen. No Messi. No Ronaldo. Both players have won 10 Ballond’or titles between them, but it is not a time for history or experience, but a time for wonders.

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Botswana ranked 4th in Zone 4 boxing tourney

4th May 2022
Boxing

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.

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Mascom Charity Cup raised P500K

4th May 2022
Mascom Charity Cup

The first Mascom Charity Cup spectacular has come and gone. The football event played at Obed Itani Chilume Stadium saw four football clubs playing one-day tourney with various charity centres being beneficiaries of the gate takings.

While the attendance was not at the expected level, it is said that the sponsor has made a killing with close to P500 000 made from voting lines. Football followers were asked to vote for teams of their choice, and top four clubs were eligible to play. A single sms voting line cost P 1.50.

Gaborone United became the most voted team with 62 984 votes followed by Security Systems with 51 027. On the third spot was BDF XI with 48 596 votes while Orapa United came forth with 44 401. Shockingly, Township Rollers did not make it after gathering a total of 30 637 votes, with BR Highlanders ahead of them having seen 44 204 votes to their name.

It is said, however that, the initiative live to expectation as clubs together with the sponsor have managed to assist charities of their choices. Mascom is believed to be happy for identifying beneficiaries and getting value for their money.

The mobile network company is still the longest standing partners of local football, having first tasted waters in 2005. The company now powers the Top 8 competition and said to have renewed the dame sponsorship at a value not exceeding 18 million. The Mascom Charity Cup was not the first to be hosted by a mobile network company.

In 2018, Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) hosted a similar event in which followers had to vote. The four participating teams were Mochudi Center Chiefs, Gaborone United, Orapa United and Township Rollers. GU were the eventual winners.

It is however not clear if the tournament will continue in the next football calendar, but what goes down into the history books is that Teenage Mpote and Orapa United were the first to win it.
In previous years, there have been an off season tournament whose aim was meant for charity purposes. The tourney was called Kabelano Charity Cup and was usually played by four big teams (Rollers, Notwane, GU and Chiefs) without taking the voting routes. It was last hosted in 2015 and had Barclays as the sponsors.

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Golden boot race intensifies

4th May 2022
Sesinyi vs Kgamanyane

Yet another thrilling showdown is expected between the country’s hottest strikers, Thabang Sesinyi of Jwaneng Galaxy and Thataoyaone Kgamanyane of Gaborone United, as the duo are eyeing for the 2021/2022 Golden boot.

With only four Botswana Premier League (BPL) games left, the race for the honours is rolling towards a thrilling climax, but for two individuals there is a race for an accolade of their own taking place that could easily go down to the final minutes of the season. Leading the pack with 19 goals is Jwaneng Galaxy talisman, Sesinyi who is one goal apart from Kgamanyane who has netted 18 goals thus far.

Both players have their eye on the golden boot, hoping that their respective teams have fixtures to put them in with a realistic chance of catching up, or leaving the other behind. The Money Machine is currently at the summit of the BPL log with 61 points while the mining giant, Galaxy are trailing on the third place with 49 points, having played 24 games thus far.

Both teams (GU and Galaxy) are expected to face each other towards the end of the season, as the initial fixture was postponed due to Galaxy’s involvement in CAF championship group stages.
With 19 goals chalked up for the season so far, Sesinyi is just one goal away from Kgamanyane who led the race for the better part of the campaign.  Sesinyi who is on freakish scoring form has scored four goals in his last two games; a hat trick against Prisons XI and a goal against Sua Flamingoes in the midweek fixture.

But there is no doubt that  Sesinyi is no longer playing to carry his team, Galaxy, as realistically there is a slim chance for them to clinch the 2021/2022 season, but he is eyeing the Golden Boot Award when the league falls off.

Kgamanyane has begun the season in tremendous form; scoring every time he is given a chance, while Sesinyi, on the other hand, reached the peak of his form in the second round of the season; scoring both in the domestic league and also on the CAF Champions’ league group stage. He featured on team of the week on February.

Furthermore, the Money Machine attacker showed some growth as his conversion rate has been on a rising graph in the games he has so far played. Although Kgamanyane’s goal scoring prowess has been there for everyone to see, the player has been hampered by injuries. It promises to be a fascinating battle between the duo.

Meanwhile, BPL this week announced that they will hold the 2021/2022 awards. The league has since added seven new categories to take the total number of categories to 16. Among some new categories are the Defender of the Season and Midfielder of the Season awards. There are also two more awards for the administrators, as the league has included Team Manager of the Season and the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Season awards.

The best performing players in this campaign will be included in the Premier League Best XI.  Nevertheless, match day officials have also been recognised with the introduction of two more categories in the young Referee of the Season and the Female Referee of the Season. Furthermore, BFL CEO Solomon Ramochotlhwane indicated that the awards will be held on the 25 June 2022, just after the 2021-2022 season comes to an end.

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