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Premier League: 224 games, 7 coaches axed

Patience is not so much of a virtue after all, that is if the on goings in the Botswana Premier League (BPL) is anything to go by. With only one match before the league reaches half way phase, a total of 7 coaches have either left their jobs or were sacked following a string of poor results. 

 
What is ironical about the firing and hiring of coaches is that-all the coaches are just being rotated amongst the same teams! It is not clear whether the coaches leave in chase of better offers or players and complicating matters for them and in turn making it harder for them to stay at their respective teams.

However, there is that unnerving history of mid-season upheaval. Retreat into the recent past, not least when coaches’ relationships with club owners, fractured beyond repair. The classical case is that of Bongani Mafu with Mochudi Centre Chiefs. The coach is now employed by Orapa United, but before finding greener pastures, he complained time and again about unpaid dues.  

With Magosi, the sight of the Kgatleng club languishing slightly off the pace did not render the coach’s position increasingly untenable. He simply terminated the contract. However, Keitumetse Paul, Raizer Tsatsilebe and Paul Moyo were dismissed with their team – albeit sides benefiting from the strong and influential backbone established properly by themselves during their first spell in charge.

Paul, popular known as Pio in football circles played a pivotal role in the promotion of Sharps Shooting Stars into the elite league. Information differed regarding his exit move, some saying the club took a decision through a move bordering on disciplinary issues while others say he outright rejected the club’ contract offer.

Paul is now with Notwane Football Club, plying his trade at the lower tier of First Division South.  He is allegedly running the Technical Directors’ portfolio. On one hand however, Premier League rookies, Uniao Flamengo Santos are said to be dangling a bigger carrot before him, in hopes to prize him away.

Suffering the same fate as Paul is Tsatsilebe. He enjoyed a roller coaster ride with Black Forest a season ago, but the Motswana mentor was to suffer a second season syndrome with the club. Moyo’s stay with Santos was as short as a hobbit, his experience as a seasoned coach failed to pay dividends.

Up north, Maxwell Moyo might be cursing the day he signed a contract with Tafic Football Club. He has been shown the door while awaiting his work permit. Competition amongst teams is certainly at its lowest largely because players have a hard time in adapting to coaches philosophies as they come and go.

This is not normal, and it appears that Madinda Ndlovu’s sordid sacking at Orapa United is having the same effect on the team’s performance. If United are making a change, it must be time for everyone else to consider their options too. Except that one only has to look at the top of the Premier League to know that is not really the case.  Ndlovu, after his fall, returned home to coach Zimbabwean giants FC Highlanders.

Worse still, Jwaneng Galaxy parted ways with their arguably best coach in history, Mike Sithole. He won the Top 8 tournament the first time after taking over as coach, and the Zimbabwean gaffer was about to take the team through the often difficult route of CAF championships. Clubs these days prefer to have coaches who do not stay for longer periods. Everything else revolves around results and whether they come or not, coaches do not have to overstay.

Changing coaches on a regular basis prevents players and fans from getting bored with the same formula every week and there is not the same sense of failure when a coach comes to the end of his contract and moves on to another club. Good coaches tend to move upwards, the not so good ones either stay at their respective teams or ship out, but with a high proportion of clubs making changes each close of season there are plenty of employment opportunities and a healthy circulation of fresh ideas, some have suggested.

When commenting on the matter, Senior National Team Coach David Bright said the problem lies with club management. He is of the view that, “a coach cannot be fired in the middle of the season while he has actually made a plan for the entire season.” He further said players are left confused and this kills the standard of football. On another related matter, Bright admitted that most premier league clubs believe more on foreign coaches who always struggle to understand local players.

Madinda Ndlovu
From Orapa United to Highlanders FC

Mike Sithole
From Jwaneng Galaxy, now club-less

Pio Paul
From Sharps to Notwane/Santos

Bongani Mafu
Centre Chiefs to Orapa United

Chico Nare
Miscellaneous to Orapa United

Raizer Tsatsilebe
Black Forest to Tafic

Maxwell Moyo
Tafic, now club-less

Paul Moyo
Santos, now club-less

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Sport

City turns to BFA tribunal over relegation

23rd November 2021
Premier league players

Botswana Football Association (BFA) arbitration tribunal is set to hear a case in which Molepolole City Stars is challenging the 2019-20 football season curtailment that led to their untimely relegation. The season was abruptly ended amid the ravaging COVID-19 scourge when the government decided to place the whole country under lockdown.

In particular, City Stars, under Somerset Gobuiwang, challenges the rationale and fairness of the association to end the league when there were several options to pursue. The club does not want to contest the authority of the national executive committee to stop the league but argues that the decision to relegate them based on the log standing was unfair, irrational and unreasonable.

Moreover, the decision was against the spirit of the game and not the most appropriate one under circumstances where they were still about 10 league games to play. As the papers were submitted, City Stars argues that the most appropriate step would have been to suspend the league and protect the league standing. “The league would then resume when it was safe to do so, as indeed it is happening now, with the log standings maintained as they were,” the court papers read.

The team, which was languishing at the bottom of the table when the decision was taken, also argues and gives an alternative that the league could have ended without relegation issues. City Stars argues, “This would be in recognition of the undeniable facts that the league was not complete and that the log standings at the time were not in any way an indicator of how they would have been had the league been allowed to run its course.”

Furthermore, Molepolole City Stars are livid that the association did not consider that the complainant had valid contracts with its staff and players and that such agreement could not be terminated abruptly. On the one hand, BFA said it was looking at three options before ending the league. Facts and scenarios informed each decision, and one was independent of the other, it was argued.

The first option, BFA says, was to stop the league where it was and crown the team that occupied the first place, which was Jwaneng Galaxy. Furthermore, three teams lying at the bottom of the table would be relegated, and teams on pole positions from Debswana First Division north and south will be promoted automatically.

By all accounts, the association felt it was a controversial option to undertake but also fairer for the sake of progress. The second available possibility was to stretch the season and consequently change the football calendar. “There has been a shelved proposal that recommends the change of our season from the usual August-May calendar to February – November because of health reasons,” BFA president MacLean Letshwiti said before making the decision.

The last possibility was to nullify all the leagues. This was — and continued to be — the last resort. Across all the global leagues, the domestic campaign had only 10 matches left, which could, in theory, be completed in the space of five weeks. In the end, BFA feels that a decision had to be made for the sake of progress. The dates of the hearing are yet to be made public.

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Sport

Is it time to take Piro serious?

23rd November 2021
GU

Pontsho Moloi’s character and football standing as a young coach have embodied simplicity and hard work for far too long. Moloi is a local bred coach who has so far threatened foreign gaffers with his coaching philosophy, a style that is exciting and irking football purists in equal measure.

As Moloi is famously known in football circles, Piro has coached a few different clubs in the homeland, but his stewardship of Gaborone United last season — going into the new one- remains his best memorable achievement ever. Before the 2019-20 season was stopped because of the COVID-19 outbreak, GU was one of the league’s favourites.

But as any self-respecting purveyor of sporting cliché knows, it is never a bad idea to keep quiet and let your football do the talking. The only hanging problem for Piro is that he has often wanted to let his talking do the talking — which is a shame since, by and large, his football, both as a player and coach, has spoken loudly enough.

Piro’s coaching resume is fascinating and worth the test for a coach whose career is barely two years old. He has presided over big guns, one staggeringly good debut top-flight campaign, one freewheeling title charge, and one dramatic league season. Yet throughout, he has continued to serve as a punch line, painted by a substantial cohort.

Now, three games into the current season, his Gaborone United side sit at the top of the pile, having won all their games and remarkably keeping a clean sheet. No team has scored more goals than Piro’s side. Is Botswana football finally ready to recognize Piro as an elite-level coach? In fact, why has it not done so already?

The answer is not straightforward, regardless of what some of his harsher detractors would want to believe, although it is true that he has often failed to do himself any favours when a microphone has been aimed his way. In today’s culture, it only takes one slip of the tongue — one tiny sound bite lacking in self-awareness — to make you look silly.

Piro’s model has worked across the board: promotion-chasing minnow, sleeping giant, trophy-hovering Goliath figure, and now an aspirational upper-middleweight.

In each instance, he has found a new gear, improved his team beyond expectation and created a side better than the sum of its parts, at least for a time. Young and veteran players excel under his watch. Attackers — especially hard-running and bloodthirsty centre-forwards, Thatayaone Kgamanyane — flourish like never before. And for once, he has needed big money to make significant progress. Yet even at United, the least tangibly successful of his last three jobs and one where things went downhill towards the end, he put together sensationally exciting teams.

Now at GU, pundits still ask whether he will last longer at the top or he will soon fall. His demonstrations this season speak volumes about winning a bigger and better trophy this season. Can he deliver, or time will tell? Part of the answer will come as the season wears on.

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Sport

GU, Rollers – early favorites

16th November 2021
Rollers & GU

Football giants Township Rollers and Gaborone United have emerged as early favourites to win the newly refined Botswana Football League (BFL), following a perfect start to the season.   

There is a sense of relief from different quarters that this new football season, still striving to secure a title sponsor, is set to be packed with more excitement and action than anticipated. Seasons’ never-ending transfer rumour mill, coupled with half-paced friendlies, have their place in football, but they were indeed only going to be a tasty little snack before the sumptuous banquet, which is a new season.

Each team has played three games. At the time of going to print, Gaborone United, driven by local gaffers Innocent Morapedi and Pontso Moloi, remains in pole position with 9 points, maintaining an unbeaten record. The club also holds another record as only to club yet to concede. Also, on pole position is Township Rollers, who remain of the favourites to clinch the title come season end.

Languishing at the bottom of the log is Extension Gunners. The Lobatse based outfit have already pressed panic buttons by sacking their coach. It is still early days, but it appears The Peleng Boys, as they are affectionately called, are suffering early relegation season syndrome. They have played three games and are still struggling to find a win, let alone finding the back of the net.

Big guns like Orapa United and Jwaneng Galaxy have tried to bolster their squads but have failed to stamp authority in their first three encounters. Galaxy look set to be a better team, but two registered wins and a loss may as well betray this standing belief. Orapa, on the other hand, has grouped experienced players in their camp. Die-hard followers hope that this may be a fruitful season, but a midweek loss against Police XI in their backyard leaves followers questioning the readiness of their technical team as the season gets hot.

Township Rollers are breathing heavily on Gaborone United backs. The two teams now becoming rivals are equal on points, but much of the scrutiny is on GU, whose defence might be critical to this year’s championship.  The need for news and views — not to mention wins in Lobatse and Francistown or wherever will once again become the all-consuming passion in many football lovers’ lives. Some had reason to be happier than most. That is why Sua Flamingoes and Masitaoka are ecstatic for their first 2021 victories.

A logical decree is that the Premier League’s usual suspects will have it all their way again. Talent galore and bottomless pockets of cash were enough to ensure yet more silverware ends up in already crammed trophy cabinets. The cream, as they say, always tends to rise to the top. Week 1 of this first half-season was the most interesting one. Eighteen goals were scored, and Thatayaone Kgamanyane of GU became the first player to score a Premier League goal this season.

Premier League Chief Executive Officer Solomon Ramochothwane believes this will be the most competitive season of recent seasons. “It is tight and competitive, and we might have a new champion at the end,” he opined. He also expressed happiness that numbers will grow at the stadiums as time goes on. But beyond the shadow of a doubt, the return of Premier League fourth round — as remarkable as the first three laps — will signal several months of nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat tension.

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