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GU: The shrinking giant

Founded in 1967, Gaborone United Sporting Club is undoubtedly one of the oldest teams in football history. In its maiden season at its formative stages, the club nicknamed ‘Moyagoleele’ won the Botswana Premier League title, wrestling it from the hands of Notwane FC.


Records show that from its toddler stages, the club whose colours are red and white was on course to write their own story on the landscape of home football. It is augured that the team was formed by stalwarts of the country’s longest ruling party, BDP. No wonder, the club inherited the party’s red and white colours.


Formed two years after Township Rollers came to life, Gaborone United, observers say, chose red and white to depict a new life on the football spectrum. Politically, red represents radicalism and revolt, and while it not indicated anyway in history that United ‘s formation came from Rollers, it is more safer to believe that, their colours painted a picture of a new life and, of course boldness.


This boldness was soon to be transformed into dominance as the team won both coca- cola cups and league title in early 60s, 70s and 80s. To date, GU has won the FA cup 6 times, and repeated the same number when clinching league titles- dominance. Their last league title was in 2009, the years during which Botswana football was in its transformation phase. It was during the same period that multi-million Lebanese business man, Nikholas Zakhem came in as the club‘s financier.


However, throughout the last couple of years that followed, the red and white regalia of GU shirts no longer represented dominance and life. In the eight years since winning their 6th premier league title in 2009, they have gone through 11 coaches, and finished behind champions Township Rollers and Mochudi Centre Chiefs.


It is not difficult to identify what precisely has gone wrong, though the causes are so manifold they are easier to locate with grapeshot than with a pinpoint. The club relied heavily on the genius of prolonging veteran players’ careers. Amongst the winning team, they were Bashin Modisaotsile, Wellengton Maposa and Kenny Ledikwe, all veterans of the game. But when they were ditched by Sithole’s successor, Manfred Chabinga, it was clear that succession plan was tinkered with. A winning coach was not allowed to lead the team in CAF competitions.


It is certainly not only the trophies that are missed at the team that was famously known to be emanating from Ditakaneng-a long standing location of Gaborone in Naledi , but also Sithole's character and personality. He had a strong and intimate relationship with the players, and it left them feeling empty when he parted ways with them for BMC. When lifting up his silverware during United’s glory days, the late Joseph Phetogo (May his soul rest in peace) who captained the side said Sithole was the best coach ever. And indeed, he was, should it be remembered that he drove Centre Chiefs to its first league trophy in its many years without registering a defeat, a year before he landed his post with Gaborone United.


Undoubtedly one could not underestimate the impact he had on both G.U and Chiefs’ players, and this has made life virtually impossible for every man who has succeeded him. If the Sithole effect has definitely been a contributing factor to G.U’s demise, most of the blame still has to go to its committee as a whole. A series of mistakes in hiring and axing coaches as well as signing players have led “The Reds” down a dark path which will be difficult to escape from.


While the team managed to win the Mascom Top 8 competition in 2013, the same problems still prevailed. They started selling their best assets– Tebogo Sembowa, Noah Maposa, Moemedi Moatlhaping and Ronald Chikomo – and tried to mask their strategy by signing big name players with only a few miles left on the clock and no re-sale value, among them Gaopatwe Seosenyeng, Kgololo Kgogobi and Alphonso Modisaotsile. Despite a huge churn of players, systemic reform at youth and academy level, the hard work of elite development and fostering club culture, was avoided in preference for the quick fix.


Another cup glory- the Coca Cola cup was achieved through the same spells of firing and hiring of new coaches. At this time, it was Philemon Makhwengwe who was at its helm. On a positive note though, the club was the first to traverse the road of professionalism. A committee that comprised of Dr Nkomazana, Tymon Katholo, and Herbert Letsebe among others were responsible for helping the team traverse the evasive route.


Fast forward to now; the club is bruised and caught up in identity crisis tussles. The gleaming trophy rooms are now but a constant reminder of failure and the desperate need for a fresh start. There are unconfirmed reports that the team, deeply troubled by lack of finances, is sponsored by a ghost company that has occupied a large share of the shirt space. This season is no different, the team is slowly moving towards the end of another trophy less run while Argentinean coach Rudolph Zapata’s journey with the team nears an end.

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Sport

Chiefs’ founders angle for takeover

12th January 2021
chiefs

A section of troubled First Division South outfit, Mochudi Centre Chiefs are said to pulling out all stops to ensure that the club finally transitions into a company amid reports of instability and divisions.

According to a leaked letter from founders who are represented by Sexton Kowa and Ramocha Tsieng, the society has taken a decision to request Thapelo Tsheole who is currently the chairman, to hand over the team back to the society.

” Following the resolution passed by the members of the Mochudi Centre Chiefs Sporting Club(society) at its annual(AGM) held on the 18th August 2019 at Ntefo Conference facility in Mochudi to convert the society to a company limited by shares and with consent of the society, a company was duly incorporated on the 21st February 2020 being Mochudi Centre Chiefs (Proprietary) Limited, (the company) by six founders of the Society namely, Messrs, Aaron Ramosako, Molefi Sexton Kowa, Joel Mpete, Archie Aphiri, Rejoice Tlhowe, and Tshepo Aphiri (herein “The Funders” ), represented by Mr Molefi Sexton Kowa and Mr Ramocha Tsieng. The AGM further resolved that once the company was formed, the affairs of the society will be handed over to the company to manage,” reads the part of the missive written to Tsheole.

Contacted for comment, Mochudi Centre Chiefs President, Thapelo Tsheole stated that he is yet to officially receive the letter but has seen it from a friend who has seen it circulating on social media. “I cannot comment on the issue further because it was shown to me by a friend who saw it circulating on social media; but we will give it the attention it deserves and I plead with Centre Chiefs faithful to be calm,” he said.

The club president intends to keep his eyes on the ball: “We will handle the issue with the utmost respect because at the end of the day Mochudi Centre Chiefs brand should be the winner and this should always be our aim.” Tsheole has been leading the side and was tasked with reviving the team and bringing them back to the elite league.

The circulating letter is a culmination of power struggle between Tsheole and the so-called founders of the club. Sources speaking with WeekendSport state that Tsheole wanted both Directors to cede 75 percent of their shares to society as he believes the transitional route from society to a company has been bypassed.

Tsheole officially raised his hand for the first time this year, in an attempt to bring an end to more than a decade of controversy over Chiefs’ ownership, and appeared to have pinned his hopes on reaching an agreement with both Kowa and Ramotlhwa because of their status and good standing as former Chiefs’ administrators.

However, those close to developments believed that Tsheole, who also leads Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE), was wasting his time trying to negotiate with the duo, who were already determined to resist all efforts. This follows unsuccessful negotiations where both Directors were alleged to have been left in utter shock concerning the approach and presentation of the Chairman.

While the two Directors would not be drawn to comment, it is said they are both hamstrung to divulge deeper details to Tsheole because of his ambition to transform the club. While Tsheole thought he was jumping off the hoops for the club, the two directors seem not to appreciate his efforts.

Tsheole, was reportedly surprised when he tried to register a commercial footballing company on behalf of Mochudi Centre Chiefs. He deliberately chose the ‘Mochudi Centre Chiefs’ name because of its popularity as it remains a brand country wide.He found out that the company name already exists and is under the directorship of both Kowa and Ramotsha.

While Mochudi Center Chiefs PTY LTD was registered sometime in February of this year, there was another company, Centre Chiefs PTY LTD, associated with the club which has been in existence since the early 1990s. This is the same company that acquired a 7 hector piece of land in Mochudi.

The company had 7 directors namely Victor Kowa as the Executive Chairman, Ezekiel Mooki who was appointed the Technical Director, Serake Mfolwe holding the post of director of Marketing and Public Relations, Simon Mmopi coming as Director of Development, MacLean Letshwiti holding the fort as Director of Finance, Sexton Kowa who was Youth Development Director, and Kgafela Kgafela who occupied the post of Director of Legal Affairs and Board Secreta.

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Sport

Cooper Zambian salary REVEALED

12th January 2021
Mothusi Cooper

Zebras midfielder, Mothusi Cooper is set to be one of the top paid players at his new club, Lusaka Dynamos, following his move from Township Rollers on a two-year deal with an option to extend by a year.

The 23 year-old who joined Township Rollers from Extension Gunners in 2018 has proved to be one of the best midfielders in the country. Cooper’s new contract will see him smile all the way to the bank as he is expected to earn US$ 2500 monthly (about P25 000) with a winning bonus of US$ 350 (about P3 500) per game. The Tsabong-born player is said to have already received P250 000.00 signing-on fee from the club.

“At Rollers he was getting around P13 000 and with COVID-19 effects his pay had went down so he could not resist such an offer. He also had ambitions to play abroad so with such opportunities sometimes you have to take them because they may come once in a lifetime since football is a short career,” said a source at Rollers.

Cooper, who was recently unveiled by Lusaka Dynamos has agreed personal terms with the club, but negotiations between the two clubs are yet to be completed. “Cooper is on his way to Zambia but we are yet to sign the final documents with Dynamos as we been negotiating with them. We are hopefully that everything will be signed any moment but we have agreed to let the player go since he agreed terms with the team,” said Township Rollers club President, Jagdish Shah.

Lusaka Dynamos owner and director, Hanif Adams revealed that the deal is done and they will do everything to finalise pending matters.  “We expect Cooper to be here this Friday and it will be up to the coach whether to play him or not when we face Green Eagles this weekend,” revealed Hanif Adams who is a respected businessman in Zambia.

Zambian sports journalist, Puncherello Chama has cautioned Cooper that he will have to fight his way to be on the first eleven of his new side. “Cooper is an exciting player and he has impressed Zambians during our two games against Zebras and already fans this side are looking forward to see him in action but he will have to fight for a starting place in Patrick Phiri led team,” he said.

“And should Cooper perform well this side I believe it will open more doors for other Botswana players to come this side, people should not undermine the Zambian league as it is ranked 7th in Africa and it has exported players all over the world in the past years.”

Lusaka Dynamos who are nicknamed The Elite, are currently on 10th position in Zambian MTN Super League table and have lost their last game to Prison Leopards 4-2 but the club hopes to redeem itself this year when they take on Green Eagles Saturday (today).

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No bones about it: Zebras needs a JJ rebirth

7th December 2020
Jerome Ramatlhakwane

The current crop of Zebras strikers is arguably apocryphal, and the vicissitude engulfing the national team has rendered them to a ‘milk and water’ status – very weak! Zebras is currently playing AFCON qualifiers and the team has scored a mere two goals in four matches!

Don’t be fooled by the 1-0 win against Zambia recently, it’s just an eye wash, win and loss in football are like Kith and Kin – the bottom-line is that our strikers are evidently gentlemen at large!
This damning conclusion on the senior men National Team is deduced from the lethargic performances since the maiden appearance at the AFCON 2012. It is a fact that the frontline attack has grown toothless since returning from their maiden AFCON cup qualifiers in February of 2012.

This is not just a squawk about Zebras strike force without basis. To steer clear of any assumed malice, here is why every firm football fan could be steamed up right now – ever since the disappearance of striker Jerome Jay Jay Ramatlhakwane, none of the selected strikers is hitting the net consistently as he once did! They have all literally failed to step into JJ shoes.

Between the 2015 and 2019 AFOCN Qualifiers, it has been uninspiring performances from the Zebras men in front of the goals. The strikers have played nine (9) rounds of games and they have scored only twice. While we could be stirring up a hornet’s nest with this matter of fact write-up, we are prepared to stick to our guns – the current crop of strikers is failing the national team.

It shouldn’t appear we trying to stretch the truth. Let’s look at the 2012 qualifying rounds, Zebras played eight (8) games and scored seven (7) times. Striker Jay Jay alone found the net five (5) times hence ascending to the summit of the top scorers’ list in Africa alongside deadly Senegalese striker, Mamadou Niang. At a personal level, this was a wonderful, hard-earned moment of sporting grace for the monstrous built striker whose body built suited his Zebras role to a T. His scoring ability remains unmatched up to now.

For far too long, The Zebras players, strikers to be more precise, have become little more than spectators in any African Cup of Nations qualifying scoring race. By extension, the future of scoring players mirrors a tomorrow that may never come. Ever since the remarkable and buccaneering record set during the wonderful seasons of striker Jerome Ramatlhakwane in 2011, The Zebras striking force has been nothing but a blunt knife – this is for the record.

Here is the sum and substance of our situation at the Zebras – four (4) AFCON finals passed without anybody hitting the net consistently. Other than trying and experimenting with a handful of strikers, our tiny land locked country struggled to find its way out of a mediocre zone.

But along the visible lines of pedestrian performances, the name of Jerome Ramatlhakwane remains popular in this country and by extension, Southern Africa. Believe it or not, Jay-Jay as he is popularly known, has built a legacy for himself that is unrivalled.

He is arguably one of the most highly acclaimed footballers this country has birthed, albeit with little success due to lack of exposure and many other obstacles the robust player has experienced in his football career. Ramatlhakwane has been both the darling and the villain in the media and in the country for the display he provides on the field of play.

With the senior national team failing to score goals, one wonders how Jay-Jay used to find the back of the net with such ease. Records are here for everyone to see but as Mark Twain argued, ‘facts are stubborn and statistics are pliable.’

With a career spanning from 2006 till date, Jay-Jay is Botswana’s all-time leading goal scorer, having found the back of the net on 21 occasions, with 53 caps under his belt and counting. Jay-Jay’s skill as a box striker is second to none; the striker is a marvel to watch on the field of play. His agility and sheer love of the game gives him an aura of a warrior on the battlefield.

That is why it is hard to comprehend why Jay-Jay is still a local player, why scouts haven’t scooped him up. A player of his calibre and the skill he possess as a finisher makes it obvious that he could be destined for greater things. Jay-Jay would make for a pronounced addition to any international club.

THE STATS

Hot on his heels is Botswana’s poster boy, Diphetogo Selolwane who hanged his boots post the 2012 AFCON showpiece. He has 18 goals from 68 caps in a football career that kick started in 1998.
In terms of play, Selolwane and Tshepiso Molwantwa, the famous jersey number 9 owner, are better than Jay-Jay but when it comes to statistics, Jay-Jay has the upper hand, this leaves one to ponder; is this what Mark Twain meant when he argued that statistics can be bent?

It’s a shock to learn that Molwantwa has won himself 44 international caps but only 8 recognized goals. We take a dim view of Molwantwa when it comes to goals scored but take heart in his selfless maneuvers on the field of play.

In modern Botswana football, Omaatla Kebatho of Orapa United and the late Oliver Phikati have all failed to rise to the occasion and with coaches not willing to give Teenage Orebonye enough opportunities, the Zebras’ striking situation has been a well-documented issue that portrays how and why The Zebras have failed to move up in the world rankings. JJ should have shown some of these players the ropes.

There seems to be no striker who will soon surpass Jay-Jay. The likes of Jomo Moatlhaping and Joel Mogorosi who have practically retired may have given the dominant striker a run for his money. Mogorosi is sitting third on the rankings with 14 goals from 79 appearances.

Only Onkabetse Makgantai can turn the tide on Jay-Jay’s story, should he come to the party. Onkabetse stands at 12 international caps with 5 goals, a far cry from what Jay-Jay resume reads. But in a squad that is losing its renowned defensive stability, Jerome can still score top marks in all aspects of the game, especially when he is working with a crafty midfielder.

Looking back at that goal reel, if ever there is one, in among the bullet headers, the tap-ins, the dinks and spins, there is a sense of man constructing a monument for himself. For Jay-Jay, the 2012 AFCON showpiece may have been the last significant mark to pass. One that may not, all things considered, be surpassed. All the hope we have on the current crop of strikers – just a shot in the dark!

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