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Ditshupo, Mambo battle headline BPL awards

Rollers skipper, Maano Ditshupo

While the beMobile Premier League crown is question, with official winners Township Rollers uncertain due to Mochudi Centre Chiefs’ protests over Ofentse Nato, individual accolades will not be in doubt at the ceremony.  

It is expected that the outstanding performers of the football season will be rewarded by the sponsor.

The attention-grabbing, and perhaps most sought after award will be the Player of the Season award which three players – Rollers captain, Maano Ditshupo; Olekantse Mambo of Orapa United; and Chiefs captain, Lesego Galenamotlhale – as nominees.   

Despite the trio enjoying a good season, observers seem to put their money on either Mambo or Ditshupo. The two will re-ignite a rivalry previously witnessed at the GICC last Thursday when they fought for the Mascom Top 8 Player of the Tournament. Ditshupo took it home then.

Aboutreika as the Rollers skipper is affectionately known has played 29 of the premiership games. He anchored the Rollers first eleven together with his partner, Lawrence Majawa.

Besides, he has been one of the hard-working and consistent midfielders in the league who helped Rollers in their quest to win the league trophy. His ability to score goals from the middle of the park ultimately winning some Man of the Match awards are demonstration that he deserves recognition.

On the other hand, the towering Mambo born defender has played 28 premier league games this season eventually making the central defence position his own.

He managed to grab some Man of the Match awards on numerous occasions, especially against Rollers in Itekeng and Gaborone United. He also became one of the few players to be bestowed with player of the month recognition.

This outstanding performance even attracted national team selection. His presence alongside Thabang Mosige saw the Ostriches conceding only 17 goals making them the least conceding team in the league.

MARK’S TACTICS VS MIKE’S SHRINKING SQUAD

This category has pitted the top three gaffers in the Premier League. The three coaches will fight for the coveted price of P25 000.  

Madinda Ndlovu, having led Orapa United to position three after winning 17 games, drawing nine and losing four does not make his record any better than of his predecessor Maxwell Moyo.

Although he made the league marathon interesting by maintaining the pressure on pace setters Rollers, it should be noted that towards the end of the season, Orapa United was not the same team that started the season in August.

They lost at home against Gilport Lions – It was the first loss to a premier league side in two years. This was followed by a loss to Township Rollers in the penultimate game.

Township Rollers English coach, Mark Harrison despite entering the local football scene as a closed book – without any league honor, he went on to feed the doubting Thomases a humble pie.

Under his mentorship Popa Popa registered 70 points to make him a champion coach. They won 24 games and his technical prowess could not be underestimated as he managed to overcome tough opponents like Centre Chiefs and Orapa United. His team list consistency and giving young blood a chance was another plus for the Briton gaffer.

Mike Sithole efforts at Chiefs cannot be ignored. The Zambian mentor had a tumultuous time this season when he had to race with a very thin squad that could not be trusted to defend the league.

However he defied the odds and fought until the last match. His team almost took home after a temporary docking of points against Township Rollers.

A small squad in comparison to his counterparts puts him at an advantage because his ability to switch players also paid dividends. When Arnold Mampori was injured he called on Galenamotlhale to destroy in the middle and bring stability in the team eventually lifting the trophy.

ROBERT’S SUPERIOR CLEAN SHEET RECORD

The trio of Kabelo Dambe, Mosimanegape Robert and the youthful Anthony Gouws will be tussling to claim the best goalkeeper accolade which attracts a P10 000 prize money.

Here statistics favor the reigning Mascom Top 8 goalkeeper of the tournament, Robert. He conceded only 17 and managed about seven clean sheets this season. Robert’s command in the 18yard box has made him one of the respected goal minders this season; a factor that saw him being selected for the national team.

Rollers goalie, Dambe conceded 22 goals this season. The number of goals conceded and the fact that he had an experienced defense could irk the assessors much more so he is also the number one national team keeper.

However it should be noted that he produced some critical saves during the course of the season. Some were the difference between Rollers winning and losing match.

Dambe’s main undoing has been poor communication and failure to deal with crosses.

As for Kanye born Gouws, it was just a motivation to the young man. He has conceded 33 goals which saw his team make it to the top eight with 44 points. In the first stanza he never enjoyed game time until Philani Mabhena took over the dressing room control and anointed him his number one.

Other interesting categories will is the Young player of the season award which has Gilport Lions winger, Kabelano Mooketsane; Orapa United striker, Thabang Sesinyi; and Rollers defender Kaone Vanderwesthuizen, as nominees. The winner pockets P10 000.

Referee of the season will see Joshua Bondo, Lekgotla Johannes and Tirelo Mositwane vying for the P15 000 prize money; while the trio of Oamogetse Godisamang, Bakwena Simankalele and Moemedi Monakwane will tussle for the P15 000 of assistant referee award.

Other categories like player’s player of the season and supporters’ player of the season winners will be announced on the day.

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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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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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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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