Albeit the slow start of the season by some of the big clubs, the football calendar year was billed as a breakthrough period for Township Rollers as team Coach, Mark Harrison, seeks to turn the club’s pot of gold into silverware.
So far, Rollers has recruited the best players with extensive experience and the expectation is that the Mma Masire side will bag both the BTC Premier League and Mascom top 8 cups and enrich their trophy cabinet. Also, the club would want to traverse a torrid passage of the CAF champion’s league, reaching group stages, at the very least.
However, the team is headed for tough times as 4 of its players, recruited to drive the team to glory are fast approaching retirement age. The quartet of Tshepo Motlhabankwe, Joel Mogorosi, Mogogi Gabonamong and Lawrence Majwawa are all on the wrong side of 30. Motlhabankwe is 36, Majawa is 35, Mogorosi is 32 while Mogogi is 33.
Injured Gabonamong is hoping for his own great leap forward in effort to end his injury nightmare. The no nonsense defender has not featured for the team this year owing to unspecified injuries. This is the first time, in his football career that he (Mogogi) missed the first five opening games of the season.
His absence has left Rollers struggling. But he too, could struggle to return to his full fitness and thus, missing the opportunity to drive Rollers back to glory, alongside the rest of a gilded quartet of the club. The teams’ insistency and promise to make a loud impact this season is yet to bear fruits. The quartet will have to stand strong, otherwise the ambition mirrors a gloomy picture for them and the club.
Majawa has played for the team for some time, while both Mogorosi and Motlhabankwe once played for Mochudi Centre Chiefs even though the former was making a second arrival at Palestine after enduring a difficult spell with South African teams. Gabonamong joined almost at the same time with Mogorosi two seasons ago, but it appears time is not on their side.
The talent of the big four, along with striker, Terrence Mandaza, who is also above 30, should make the case for Rollers to finally make headline impact, particularly in the CAF competition starting in January. The sense all could awaken for the business end is enhanced by their respective pedigrees. Away from the Rollers stage, Mogorosi was a Telkom player of the season while with Bloemfontein Celtic in his maiden season in 2013. Before joining Celtic, he won a golden boot with Mochudi Centre Chiefs. Motlhabankwe captained both Extension Gunners and Mochudi Centre Chiefs and was an instrumental cog when the Kgatleng outfit won the league unbeaten in 2008.
Gabonamong has also led South African power house, Super Sport united to finals of the Nedbank Cup in 2012/13 season against Kaizer Chiefs. But Majawa has been the most consistent player of all in the Rollers squad and it betrays logic why he was never called to represent his country of birth, Malawi.
In the first five games of the season, Rollers have been more on the luke warm side than expected. They started well, clobbering Selebi-Phikwe outfit by 3-1. Gabonamong was not in the starting lineup against premier league rookies, Black Forest, and they huffed and puffed. The absence of midfielder Majawa was conspicuously seen when they played a 2 all draw.
With FC Galaxy at Jwaneng, Majawa and Motlhabankwe demonstrated the needed qualities of leadership. The team looked bullish in all departments and Mogorosi was not heavily missed on an afternoon when Terrence Mandaza turned back the hands of time, scoring twice.There is no evidence that the quartet will remain donning the blue shirt in the next two seasons, but what stands is the fact that time has finally caught up with them and their retirement is looming.
The mega transfer of one Thatayaone Ditlhokwe from Township Rollers to South Africa’s SuperSport United has left Gaborone United (GU) desperate for the ‘purchase benefits’ and the latter has consistently phoned Rollers to pay back their share for supposedly grooming the player.
Ditlhokwe, a former GU defender, was sold to SuperSport at an estimated fee of P 2 million late last year. When the sale was negotiated, and it was agreed that GU will receive at least 15% of the sale, sources say.
This therefore means Rollers has to pay GU P 300 000.
According to reliable sources, Rollers is yet to process GU’s benefits because SuperSport United is taking long to complete the transfer fee. However, Jagdish Shah, the financer of Rollers, is said to be ready to pay GU’s dues as soon as the time is right.
In any case, it is said the two clubs are fighting a boardroom brawl. Regarded as the fiercest cross town rivals, GU was incensed to lose Ditlhokwe to Rollers in the first place. The underlying scuffle, to date, is catalysed by misplaced documents and trust that has grown seriously thin between the two clubs.
It is said that GU cannot find the contract between Rollers and SuperSport so as to officially bill their claim. Sources put it that GU had written twice to Rollers asking them to forward a copy of the said contract.
In the first instance, it is said that Rollers cooperated and did as GU requested. However, GU is said to have lost the contract and went back to Rollers for another copy. Rollers according to sources then refused to budge. There are claims that GU is now stuck in one place.
Rollers media liaison Phemperetlhe Pheto said it is difficult to talk about contracts to third parties. He however implored GU to avail the contract for them to claim their fees without doubts.
“I am disturbed to talk about contracts of players to media but bear in mind that we cannot act when GU is failing to submit what they have as a proof,” he said.
When Rollers tried to sign Argentinean born gaffer, Rudolph Zapata, three seasons ago, GU fought tooth and nail to block him from joining the ranks of their number one enemy. They delayed to release his work permits accusing him and Rollers of sinister motives.
To this date, GU is livid that Rollers nearly paralyzed their camp when they recruited striker Tumisang Orebonye, defender Jackson Lesole and the very same Ditlhokwe, to offer them lucrative contracts.
Just a year ago, the fight between the two clubs almost took a nasty turn. It started when GU wrote to the Botswana Football Association (BFA) questioning the coaching credentials of Rollers former coach, Frank Nuttall, together with his assistants, Leutwetse Tshireletso and Zachariah Mudzazi. Then, GU was seen to be shifting posts when consistently asked to rectify the situation involving their coach, Pontsho Moloi. It was found out that Moloi was not fit to coach in the elite level according to the requirements of club licensing.
But as things stand, GU will count on the words of Shah, whom many football administrators label as a ‘man of integrity.’
Ditlhokwe signed a three year deal with SuperSport last year. The 22-year-old helped Rollers to lift the Botswana Premier League trophy in the 2018/19 season and was rewarded with a national team call up.
The Botswana international played an important role for his side in the 2019 COSAFA Cup in South Africa as captain, Ditlhokwe also helped Zebras finish 2nd in the tournament losing to Zambia in the final.
The Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture Development has agreed to refurbish the dilapidated Molepolole Sports Complex.
The development consequently means premier league teams and local clubs will not be able to utilise the facility in the upcoming season.
The stadium with a carrying capacity of 6 600, was earmarked by premier league rookies Masitaoka as home-ground.
The ministry has further revealed that the stadium will need a budget of about 5 million Pula to relay the turf and renovate a water drainage system that has worn out. The contractors are expected to commence work in the not so distant future.
The pitch surface is artificial and was first installed in 2008 at FIFA’s request and the presidency of Philp Makgalemele. In 2010, it was chosen as one of two host stadiums for the COSAFA Under-20 Challenge.
“We have funds to refurbish the Molepolole Stadium for two main projects; the relaying of turf and renovation of water reticulation system. The stadium will therefore be out of bounds when contracted companies begin their works,” the Chairman of Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) confirmed.
The Ministry of sport is further expected to file a communication with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development notifying them to start a monitoring exercise when the renovations begin.
The reconstruction of this stadium and others is however feared to coincide with the long intention of the government to improve sport infrastructure throughout the country.
Earlier this year, the sport ministry has also requested a budget of about P 33 million to renovate and improve the VIP lounge of Francistown Sport Complex, now known as Obed Chilume stadium.
The President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi, said the government continues to improve sporting infrastructure as part of the grassroots sport development programme. He said this in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) two years ago.
This financial year, P50 million was allocated for the construction of 10 community sport facilities or mini stadia, around the country.
“These will be basic sport facilities for youth recreation, and will consist of boundary wall, an artificial turf, soccer pitch and changing rooms with ablution facilities,” he said.
The facilities are earmarked for Tonota, Mmadinare, Bobonong, Tutume, Kasane, Goodhope, Kanye, Rakops, Tsabong and Moshupa.
Enterprising midfielder, Dirang Moloi, is in talks with premier league rookies Masitaoka Football Club about possibilities of joining as a free agent, having last played for troubled Extension Gunners last season.
Moloi, touted as the best midfielder of his generation, is said to be ready to hang his boots but not before playing for Masitaoka, the promising outfit whose administration is now the envy of other premier teams, especially the older ones.
However, it appears that there is a stumbling block as Moloi is requesting for conditions that are beyond the club’s reach. Moloi, with a substantial premier league experience, where player wages are not always guaranteed, wants to partner with the club through his side businesses to make profit.
Sources say Moloi does not desperately yearn for a monthly salary, but wants some benefits as the club makes money through other means.
Operating as a football company, Masitaoka has plenty of sponsors and it is why Moloi wants a share of the profits for each replica jersey the team sells. He also wants the club to partner with his security company to further rake in profits rather than waiting on a meagre salary that is not certain especially during turbulent periods of corona virus. This, according to sources may weigh heavily on Masitaoka’s situation that consequently will collapse the talks.
All the while, it is said Moloi will no longer be a first-choice selection but Neslon Olebile, the team’s head coach, hopes that his personality and experience will serve to inspire the rest of the attacking options, most notably the younger players.
Masitaoka have always sought to have leaders in their squad, players who have won big games and can bolster the collective belief. Their hunger to sign Galabgwe Moyana in the next season is rooted in part, by what he could bring away from the field.
Moloi, some reports say may join partly on probation and eventually sign to play as the season goes on, but not to inspire, as he once declared he is about to quit Botswana football.
The club sources however say that there is no option built into the deal for him to join them with non- football conditions.
Masitaoka are however desperate for Moloi’s services and will want him to bring calmness and stability to a side that has begun to dream big. The Molepolole base outfit is eyeing a spot in the finals of Orange FA Cup. Once football resumes, the club will play against Calendar Stars in the quarter finals.
Moloi has won a handful of trophies and medals during his salad days at Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers.