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Kgalema lenyatso Piro!

A song for one of the most successful captains in the country

It is the afternoon of one of the weekends of November and Week 11 of 2006/07 Mascom Premier League is in full swing. In the 83rd minute of this classic fixture between Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers, Chiefs winger Pontsho Moloi performs wizardry that would determine the result of the game and embody the spirit of the revolutionary Kgatleng side and would transform local football.

‘Piro’ received a pass from Elijah Montsho on the right flank, drove towards Rollers left back Lolo Mosojane. The veteran Rollers defender was left on the ground while Moloi now faced central defender Barry Hangunyu who is also left eating grass while the winger put the ball past hapless Rollers goalkeeper Lesego Moeng. Chiefs go on to win the game by 2-1.

Since that encounter a lot was said of Moloi. Magosi supporters composed a song; Kgalema Lenyatso Piro, the chanting of the song was memorable and this was because in a way, Moloi had ended Rollers’s reign. He had helped Magosi bring down long time rivals in the game. Piro, like other football greats such as David Beckham, in a similar manner displayed a wizardry trademark which football lovers would tag the ‘PM turn’. It was at this moment that the black and white side resurged, with Moloi as the conductor.

Through his incredible footwork and thinking, Moloi was a modern winger who could attack with venom slicing defenders, scoring goals and creating assists causing his teammates to bring out their best for the team. “He was one of the skillful wingers that would keep you in your toes for the entire game and if you were to face him you had to be ready both physically and mentally,” ex Rollers and national team defender Seabo “Seabee” Gabanakgosi said.

Pontsho “Piro, Master-Twitter” Moloi was born on the 28th of November 1981 in Gaborone at the notorious location of extension 27. He started his football at a development team called Masa-Masa at Primary level. He then left to Young Strikers in the Junior category where he won the Chappies little league, before joining Notwane in 1999 where he was promoted to the senior team two years later at the age of 19. In 2006, after seven years with the player, Notwane lost one of their prized assets to Chiefs, and the disbelief was that he was signed for free; this move became a talk of the town for the better part of the transfer window more so it was the biggest move in the local football scene by then.

“That was so emotional because that’s where I cut my first teeth and it (Notwane) exposed me to a lot of things,” Moloi said,   “but I had to move on and look for better pastures and Chiefs offered me that.”

In 2010 Moloi was signed by South African side Bay United for a season, and again before leaving Notwane he enjoyed some short stint at Cyprus. In his illustrious football career, Moloi featured in all the national development sides and also became part of the historic 2012 AFCON qualifying squad.

When he left Notwane, part of the debate was his attitude towards the game. Piro was accused of indiscipline in the field of play but ever since joining Chiefs he has been a different player.

“I was still a youngster by then, but as you grow you notice that at some point you were wrong,” PM 7, as the player was fondly called said.

One of the games that would always remain in many people’s memory was the 2005/06 season encounter between Notwane and Naughty Boys, when Piro received marching orders after he overreacted following his younger brother Dirang being given a red-card. However at Chiefs he found the likes of the then captain Noah “Stooge” Kareng who molded him.

Nowadays Pontsho is a true role model.

“I have always looked up to him and I am so excited to be with him on the same team, he is always there to give me some advices,” Chiefs wonder-kid, Ayanda Molefe could say about the legendary captain.

Chiefs under the armband of Moloi bagged five league titles and one FA cup honours which had previously eluded the club.

“His contribution was immeasurable, he helped us win the league and FA cup, you must remember that these trophies have eluded us but in the presence of him we defied the odds,” chiefs spokesperson Clifford Mogomotsi told Weekendsport.

Piro’s first achievement was winning the golden boot in his maiden season after scoring 22 goals before helping Magosi win their first ever league honour in 2007/08 in undefeated fashion, again in the same season, he helped the team win the FA cup. The following season they finished second best after GU narrowly beat them to win the trophy in photo-finish style.

Other titles were in 2011/12, 2012/13, 2014/15 and the just ended 2015/16 season.

“Piro is one of the boys that grew before me and we went through a lot. I remember one day I substituted him in less than 10 minutes in Lobatse, he cried such that after the game he told his mother how I didn’t treat him well but I explained to the mother that I wanted the best out of the boy, so when I look back and see where we are now and look at his achievements as well, I can only smile,” former Notwane captain Fabian Zulu remembered.

Moloi has been a true legend for football not only for Chiefs. “It has been a long journey and with the support from the Chiefs family I have been able to reach my destiny,” Moloi said after the game against Galaxy with the famous Kgalema Lenyatso Piro hit on the background.

“We will meet as the board and see how best to assist him either as team manager or one of the administration portfolios,” Mogomotsi said.

Ever since joining the Kgatleng side, a decade ago Chiefs has been the most consistent team in the league and putting the then dominant Gaborone sides; Rollers and GU under pressure. The song Kgalema Lenyatso Piro will long live, he instilled discipline to both teams and ensured that Magosi got the respect only befitting kings.

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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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