Having won a controversy riddled Premier League title last season, Township Rollers head coach, Mark Harrison was expected to further demonstrate and parade the gulf in class of his team this season and the anticipation was enormous given the marquee of signings of Jagdish Shah‘s project.
But against fiercest rivals, Mochudi Centre Chiefs, the Briton coach’s tactics betrayed his class. His mid-September travails were expected to be given some much needed respite against a limping Centre Chiefs, but instead, misery piled up, thus challenging the whole Township Rollers management with a difficult question to fathom – How do you solve the midfield conundrum of Township Rollers without Maano Ditshupo’s input?
Entering a popular calendar fixture against the Kgatleng oufit, Harrison was a picture of exasperation after naming an unchanged line up for the second successive time. And when he left the stadium, he was a shadow of himself. Township Rollers midfield play in those abysmal showings against BDF XI, Security Systems and now Chiefs was broken up, with award winning captain, Ditshupo as a bench warmer yet again.
Instead Harrison, since the splendid performance against BDF XI, opted to field Ntesang Simanyana who aimed for reprieve from the naysayers owing to his dismal showing whilst he was with cross town rivals, Gaborone United, a season ago. However, the decision to field Simanyana continues to compound the club’s midfield misery; where Segolame Boy has been slightly redeployed to function on an unfamiliar territory.
This on the whole should be a banana skin too hazardous a prospect, because long serving Rollers midfielder, Lawrence Majawa and the now rejected Rollers captain were often times paired in the midfield to shield the defence, with Boy tasked with providing additional support to the striking force, forming a midfield diamond with Joel Mogorosi and Galabgwe Moyana on either side of the pitch to pose a menacing attack. Under Mandinda Ndlovu, Rollers’ former coach, the team opted for power play but Harrison’s tactics are increasingly becoming a gargantuan task.
The midfield composition of Majawa, Simanyana, Motsholetsi Sikele and Lemponye Tshireletso struggles to give Harrison his Holy Grail- balance. Simanyana, despite his admirable battling qualities and improved form, can hardly be classed as a key cog in Rollers’ midfield. Essentially, the former Gaborone United player has been asked to replicate the role. Maano Ditshupo has made his own- breaking up play and playing simple passes to keep Rollers ticking.
When Rollers won the league last season, Ditshupo played 29 games of the club, missing only one. His underlying boldness as a midfielder of note showcased when he won the coveted Mascom top 8 player of the tournament-a fruitful effort that saw him becoming the engine that ran Township Rollers to the finals.
He scored four goals as a deep lying playmaker on process clinching the tournament’s golden boot. This season, Ditshupo started only 5 games. He played two games as a substitute- a period that saw the club slipping down the log to the 4th spot. Observers say Maano was the perfect player for power play, someone who passed the ball endlessly sideways, registering impressive possession stats without going anywhere. It is an allegation not without foundation but misses an important point about balance.
Having one player who can be relied on to keep the ball is not the same as having 11 who are terrified of giving away possession. As he showed this season in the away wins against Nico United and Jwaneng Galaxy, Maano is more than capable of incisive 40-yard forward passes when the situation allows.
The club’s captain is not perhaps the most fashionable player. It is hard to see how he would fit in a hard-pressing, relentless running team such as Extension Gunners or Gaborone United.
Football analyst and former Notwane player Fabian Zulu says the introduction of Simanyana has brought confusion in the Rollers midfield. He is of the view that it consists of many ball players leaving a lot of work on Majawa. ‘‘I think it was unnecessary to drop Maano, he is a workaholic and can help the team in attack and equally in defence, but both Boy and Simanyana are liabilities defensively,’’ Zulu argued.
On the other hand, vice-captain Joel Mogorosi continues to polarize opinion. Nothing is coming off for him, and has not for a good while. He looks like an old man in a young man’s game. Before the season started, Harrison was fervent in his declaration that we would not see Mogorosi as an outright striker, like he was utilized in the dying embers of Peter Butler’s campaign in the world cup qualifiers. Yet Mogorosi is still seeking the sanctuary of coming deeper and is upsetting the balance and structure this Rollers side is striving for. It looks though that Harrison has catered for the vice captain’s needs and wants.
Kaizer Chiefs, one of South Africa’s biggest football clubs, has been facing a coaching crisis. In the midst of this turmoil, Thatayaone Ditlhokwe, a local hard-tackling defender, has quickly become an integral member of the squad. However, despite his impressive performances, Ditlhokwe must avoid complacency and continue to work hard to secure his place in the star-studded team. TSHEPO KEHIMILE explores the potential impact of Chiefs’ frequent changes in coaching staff on Ditlhokwe and emphasize the need for him to maintain his high level of performance.
Ditlhokwe’s Rise to Prominence:
Ditlhokwe’s journey in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) began when he joined Supersport United on a three-year deal from Township Rollers. His talent and dedication quickly caught the attention of the technical team, and he became a trusted member of the squad. In January 2023, he signed a five-year contract with Kaizer Chiefs, one of the biggest clubs in South African football. His performances during pre-season matches against Young African and Township Rollers showcased his potential and promised a bright future at Amakhosi.
The Acid Test:
As the season progressed, Ditlhokwe faced several challenges. His first test came against Chippa United, where he and his defensive partner, Given Msimango, managed to keep a clean sheet in a goalless draw. However, miscommunication between the defense and goalkeeper Riyaard Pieterse led to a 2-1 defeat against Mamelodi Sundowns. Despite this setback, Ditlhokwe and Msimango redeemed themselves in subsequent matches, guiding Chiefs to a 3-0 victory against TS Galaxy and a 2-0 win against Stellenbosch.
The Impact of Coaching Changes:
Chiefs’ frequent changes in coaching staff can potentially affect Ditlhokwe’s performance and place in the team. The departure of Coach Molefi Ntseki, who had shown faith in Ditlhokwe, raised questions about whether the new coach would retain him as a regular starter. The arrival of Cavin Johnson as the interim coach saw Ditlhokwe maintain his place in the starting lineup, but the team continued to struggle defensively, conceding goals in matches against Golden Arrows and Cape Town City.
The Need for Consistency:
Ditlhokwe’s consistent presence in the starting lineup is commendable, but he must not become complacent. As competition for accolades and starting positions intensifies, he needs to work even harder to improve the team’s defensive record. Chiefs’ recent signing of his former Supersport United teammate adds further competition for the starting berth, making it crucial for Ditlhokwe to maintain his high level of performance.
Thatayaone Ditlhokwe’s journey at Kaizer Chiefs has been impressive, with his consistent performances earning him a regular place in the starting lineup. However, he must avoid complacency and continue to work hard to improve the team’s defensive record. The frequent changes in coaching staff at Chiefs add an element of uncertainty, making it essential for Ditlhokwe to prove himself to each new coach. By remaining focused and dedicated, Ditlhokwe can solidify his position in the team and contribute to the success of Amakhosi.
The Botswana Boxing Association (BOBA) recently organized a successful Boxing National Championships, sponsored by Maun Quarries and Tau Grading, with a generous amount of P100,000. This financial support is a welcome development for the boxing fraternity, as it has been almost a decade since such a windfall was received. The championships showcased the incredible skills of boxers like Mmusi Tswiigi, who achieved a remarkable victory by Referee Stop Contest (RSC). However, despite this success, BOBA acknowledges the need to improve and participate in international competitions to increase the chances of qualifying for the Paris Olympics.
National Championships Success:
The Boxing National Championships witnessed outstanding performances from various boxers. Mmusi Tswiigi’s victory by RSC highlighted his exceptional skills and determination. Other notable performers included Rajab Mahommed, Maxwell Sechi, Thabang Chakalisa, Kerapetse Segole, Joel Kgogobi, Botshelo Thomologo, Otsile Mogobye, Mompoloki Sebula, Kenaope Boifang, Solomon Motshwarakgole, Keamogetse Kenosi, and Tshephang Moilwa. These boxers demonstrated their talent and dedication, bringing pride to the nation.
The Road to the Olympics:
Despite the success at the National Championships, BOBA Secretary General, Taolo Tlouetsile, acknowledges that more needs to be done to secure a spot at the Paris Olympics. Tlouetsile emphasizes the importance of international exposure for local boxers to gauge their readiness for such competitions. He recognizes that the opponents in international competitions are more active and challenging, making it crucial for local boxers to participate in various international events.
The local pugilists faced difficulties during the Paris 2024 Boxing Africa Qualifiers held in Senegal. Most of the boxers were eliminated in the preliminary rounds, with only Keamogetse Kenosi making it to the quarterfinals. The lack of preparation due to financial constraints hindered their performance. The absence of training camps and exposure to international competitions affected their readiness and ability to compete at the highest level.
To secure a place at the Paris Olympics, local boxers must now focus on the upcoming qualification tournaments. The 1st World Qualification Tournament is scheduled to take place in Busto Arsizio, Italy, from 29 February to 12 March 2024, followed by the 2nd World Qualification Tournament in Bangkok, Thailand, from 23 May to 3 June 2024. These tournaments provide another opportunity for local boxers to showcase their skills and qualify for the Olympics.
The Way Forward:
BOBA National Team Coach, Thebe Setlalekgosi, acknowledges the talent of the boxers but highlights the financial constraints that have hindered their progress. Setlalekgosi emphasizes the need for proper training camps to prepare the team adequately. He expresses his disappointment at missing the International Boxing Association (IBA) Junior World Championships, which could have served as valuable preparation for future boxers. Setlalekgosi proposes a training camp from the first week of December until February to ensure the team is in top shape for the upcoming qualifiers.
The recent success of the Boxing National Championships sponsored by Maun Quarries and Tau Grading is a positive step for BOBA. However, the association recognizes the need for international exposure and participation to improve the chances of qualifying for the Paris Olympics. Financial constraints have been a significant challenge, affecting the preparation and performance of local boxers. With upcoming qualification tournaments, it is crucial for BOBA to prioritize training camps and international competitions to give their boxers the best chance at success. By addressing these challenges, BOBA can pave the way for a brighter future in boxing and bring glory to Botswana on the Olympic stage.
Crunch time has arrived for the Mares, the women’s senior national team of Botswana, as they face a crucial encounter against Kenya, also known as the Harambee Starlets.
This match will determine their qualification for the WAFCON 2024 tournament, and the fate of the Mares hangs in the balance. Under the guidance of their new coach, Alex Malete, the team carries a slight advantage with an away goal from the first leg.
Adding to their confidence, the Mares received a major boost with the inclusion of newly appointed Zebras head coach, Didier Gomes Da Rosa, in their technical team. Da Rosa’s appointment as the Director of Football for all national teams, including the women’s team, shows the commitment of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) to support the growth and development of women’s football in the country.
The history between these two teams is not extensive, with only two previous encounters. The last match took place in 2015 during the 2016 Olympic qualifiers. The Mares won the first leg 2-1 but lost the second leg 1-0, resulting in the Harambee Starlets advancing to the next round based on aggregate score.
Both teams have their sights set on making their second appearance in the WAFCON tournament. The Harambee Starlets made their debut in the 2016 edition held in Cameroon, and now they aim to secure their next appearance. Similarly, the Mares are eager to make their mark and showcase their progress since their last participation.
In the first leg of this crucial tie, the Mares faced early attacks from the home side but found their rhythm midway through the first half. Keitumetse Dithebe, an attacker from Gaborone United, broke the deadlock with a goal in the 37th minute. However, the Harambee Starlets quickly responded with a penalty kick just before halftime, leveling the score. The second half saw sustained attacks from the Kenyan side, but the Mares held firm at the back, ensuring the match ended in a stalemate.
The Mares can rely on the experience and skill of players like Refilwe Tholakele and Sedilame Bosija, who recently won the CAF Women’s Champions League with Mamelodi Sundowns. Tholakele, awarded the Golden Boot, played a pivotal role in her team’s historic triumph, scoring two goals in the final. Her success highlights the significance of her contribution to the Mares’ campaign.
As the Mares head into this crucial clash, they must draw on their collective strength and determination. The opportunity to qualify for WAFCON 2024 is within their grasp, and they must seize it. With the support of their coach, the inclusion of Da Rosa in the technical team, and the talent of their players, the Mares have the potential to rewrite their own history and make a lasting impact on women’s football in Botswana.