Part of the fun of watching Botswana Premier league is seeing fans of Magosi and Mapalastina argue about their respective teams, leading endless debates over the abilities of their best acquisitions and bragging about the results of the latest matches.
But while Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers have been running away from the cash-strapped league, having fun in their own little tournament, crushing opponents, challenging for every single competition they play in, they failed to notice the rise of Orapa United. They have been used to either BDF XI or Gaborone United chasing after them for a while, until the shallowness of their squads started to show. Rollers and Chiefs shared the first top spots for the better part of the season, and now Orapa United has leap frogged Chiefs and are aiming to take The Blues by storm-once again.
Those who love the underdog title, football lovers and neutrals in general who crave a good story of players overcoming injuries to participate in finals or meagre clubs challenging for the title of champions, would have found Orapa United interesting until this season.
In fact, football die-hards probably found themselves admiring The Ostriches as they are known, who have been battling superpowers with pride and dignity and getting positive results, and this time they have been untouchable.
All of a sudden, United are talk of the town, they stand second in BPL, four points above the third placed Centre Chiefs, and they possess one of the country’s best defensive units. Yet they managed to skip the part where they go from a forgotten club, to the next big thing.
The Ostriches have always been known as the team that never fulfilled its potential; they were the team that couldn’t find the right coach, the team that would always lose their top class players, and still could compete for top honours. They lost Dominick Changwe and Maxwell Moyo, mainly for failing to lead them to the Promised Land.
However, many still do not believe in the rise of Orapa. In fact, lots are still waiting for their supposedly inevitable demise.
But Madinda Ndlovu, the club’s coach has spoken about the endurance of his team in gripping terms. He has taken a turn, moments after guiding it to the top 8 podium, to thank God and the united front of this team. ‘‘I thank God we have won this top 8, we honestly deserved it, he said after the game.’’
It was not necessarily an acceptance speech. Neither was it a word of acknowledgement. But it was gripping and touching. Gripping because the country has not really heard much from the man at the centre of Botswana football’s emergent Premier League folk tale; and touching mainly because Orapa United’s season is something that really does seem to not need explaining.
The simple facts of games won and goals scored would not do it here. It is not enough that at the Francistown Stadium last week, United simply looked like what they are, the best team in the country this season, with complete players in every department, the best tactical plan, the most compelling spirit and the best – by records – defensive midfielder. It seems Orapa have to mean something too.
To date, opinion on this meaning has divided into two camps. On the one hand Orapa are a modern fairytale, evidence of the stridently jumbled brilliance of the Premier League and the redemptive power of sport.
At the other extreme Orapa United’s success is something more grave- evidence of the chronic mediocrity of the Premier League. For the bigger teams, finishing second to United should be an indelible spot of shame. But no one can dispute that diamonds and love have built a team borne of five other clubs within the Boteti region.
The fact is Orapa United are not really a fairytale at all. Or at least to see them as such – flukish, magical – is to miss the best part of what they are doing. Just as to see a cautionary tale here is also to miss the point.
They have started making money from all possible angles. The restaurant and bars within the Orapa town have proven to be a comfortable source of income. On monthly basis, an approximate of BWP 100 000 is collected and players are paid competitive wages. Each has been given a house free of rent, and welfare is never a problem.
Based in the heart of Orapa- a town known to produce diamonds since 1971, the team has found the need to unite the small population-estimated around 12 000. Five years ago, an idea to dissolve the five teams (Boteti Young Fighters, White Diamonds, Orapa Swallows, Orapa Bucs and Orapa Swallows) competing for funds from Debswana was debated. An umbrella team was later formed with faith of reducing over reliance in the Debswana mine, and in the fifth season of Mascom top 8, the team finally rips the rewards.
Orapa- a sesarwa name for resting place of lions- is a conventional open pit mine. The Mine was discovered in 1967 by a team of De Beers geologists led by Manfred Marx. It became fully operational four years later when it was officially opened by the then President of Botswana, His Excellency Sir Seretse Khama.
Last Saturday night therefore, in the Mascom top 8 final, was the epiphany for those who doubted the now brilliance of one of the greatest football sides ever in Orapa. Prior to this ill-tempered tie, many football pundits had predicted a favourable result for Township Rollers and Mark Harrison. Madinda Ndlovu’s charges were not the favourites owing to the brilliance of the expensively assembled Gaborone giants. However tables turned.
Orapa United trumped the ‘palestine’ to lift the coveted Mascom top 8 tourney. In the spotlight and rightly so, lapping up all the adulations directed at his egoistical but brilliant self was the self confessed master tactician- Madinda Ndlovu.
The long suffering community of Orapa and Boteti alike suddenly had renewed hopes from the days of forming one team. A club captained by industrious Thabang Mosegi, led in the midfield by the experience of Patrick Motsepe and spear-headed by the brilliance of Ronald Chikomo.
The Zimbabwean gaffer -a pragmatic man whose football might not be appealing to the purists- appeared to have developed a plan to stop Rollers. Having done it, but failed in the last hour with the same Township Rollers, the mood was shifting.
Typical of his sides, United were content to let Segolame Boy and company have possession but only in areas where it could not hurt them, rarely moving out of their own half and hitting Popa when they least expect it. Overnight, in the eyes of many, Rollers was reduced from an all conquering and swashbuckling side to a team that was devoid of plan B. It was partly true yet it also did fail to mention that which has always been the truth- that Popa is the better side.
The Madinda Ndlovu side appears to have developed their own reference point. They combine experience with youth. And to date, this is their identity and football ideology.
They also seek to promote talent and turn it to country-wide beaters. Thabang Sesenyi, Onkabetse Makgantai-all having scored in the final-Lemogang Maswena- and Baboloki Makhura together with goal keeper Mosimanegape Roberts are starry-eyed youngsters who don the Orapa kit almost every game. Reinforcements have been made to complete such a talent. Patrick Lenyeletse, a Boteti grown talent, Patrick Motsepe, Ronald Chikomo and Mcini Sibanda are torch bearers and engines running the team.
The mercenary belief that success literally has a price is not entertained by the Orapa Outfit. They do not splash staggering amounts of pula in players. The model to seek countrywide appeal and glory rests even with their motto: Orapa today, Boteti tomorrow.
Players like striker Bonolo Fraizer , Mambo Jambo are coming in to the side and success is in sight. It appears Orapa United and their approach on how a football club should be run is now coming into ascendancy.
The case involving the improper registration of Township Rollers left back, Onkarabile Ratanang which has been dragging for a long time since the beginning of this year was finally put to bed this week after Botswana Football League (BFL) Disciplinary Committee (DC) found Mapalastina guilty.
In what shocked many football fanatics this week, Popa Popa as they are affectionately known by their legion of fans were fined P15 000 for using a defaulter in some of their league matches. It must be noted that no team officially filed a formal protest against Rollers. In April this year, Botswana Football Association (BFA) Secretariat conducted investigations into registration of Ratanang and discovered that the player was registered outside the transfer registration period.
According to a statement from secretariat, it revealed that BFA registration period was from 13th July 2021 to the 30th September 2021 but Ratanang was registered on the 28th of October 2021 and this was done contrary to the rules and statutes of the BFA. After the investigations were conducted, two officials from Rollers and a former BFA employee Setete Phuthego who are alleged to have been implicated in the registration of Ratanang were suspended from all footballing activities.
The two Rollers officials were, General Manager Sydney Magagane and Team Manager Motshegetsi Mafa. However Mafa’s suspension was withdrawn on June 27 though there was no disciplinary hearing conducted. Rollers was represented by Bennett Mamelodi who is the CEO of the club together with Kgosietsile Ngaakagae and Martin Dingake in the Ratanang case. The Botswana Premier League (BFL) Prosecution team was led by Chalengwa Manyepedza, Bojosi and three other members.
When delivering the long awaited judgement on Thursday, Manyepedza who is the chairman of BFL Prosecution team said there were two mitigating factors in favour of Rollers with the most important aggravating factor being the seriousness of the offence. “To their benefit and it has not been violently contested to suggest otherwise, Rollers approached the BFA office for help (in their words) and curiously the BFA office that ought to be custodians of the system allowed the request and thereafter kept quiet about the matter,” reads part of the judgement.
“It is a matter of record that Township Rollers have maintained that the situation central to the case was facilitated and somewhat sanctioned by the named BFA officer who received the application albeit out of time as it has been established but still proceeded to procure the registration and clearance of the player and thereafter kept quiet about the matter.”
Furthermore Manyepedza indicated that there is a problem in the BFA office in terms of governance and adherence to controls judging from what allegedly happened. He further said whilst the BFA junior officer claimed that they were directed by a superior officer to assist the accused, “there has been nothing more placed before us to support the argument that Rollers were the only party with dirt on their hands in his case.”
He went on to emphasize that the committee finds that the appropriate sanction should also pronounce that the respective office of the BFA that facilitated the transgression was also remiss and complicit in their discharge of their functions. “As stated in the main judgement the player was a defaulter and the issue of his status did not arise from the protest or complaint or in any way as contemplated in the BFL Disciplinary code. It must be emphasized that the case would been different if all the issues had an aggrieved party or if any would have followed the set procedure in the BFL code,” he said.
Manyepedza said after taking all relevant factors into account including the demands of justice, the committee finds it fitting that the possible punishment in the matter to be prescribed above at clause 6.3 to be a fine of P15 000 and that the fine should be paid within 3 days of the judgement. In conclusion, he cautioned Rollers to refrain from any further acts of being negligent or clumsy in discharging their office functions to end up seeking favours from officials. Manyepedza also advised Rollers that they have 10 days to appeal the judgement.
Youthful coach Wame Mokoke has come out with guns blazing to the Extension Gunners official who he said recruited him back to the club after he dumped them for greener pastures at Jwaneng Galaxy but failed to deliver on their promises.
Pepe Zino, as he is otherwise known, then joined Galaxy on a 2 year deal to deputise head coach Morena Ramorebodi but 2 weeks later retraced his steps back to Mapantsula, a move he highly regrets. “That guy (name withheld as the issue is now before the courts of law) counteroffered what Galaxy had offered, promised to timely pay my salary from his company on behalf of Gunners and also promised me a 4 hectare piece of land at Dikgonnye, that is what really lured me back but he failed to deliver, ” Mokoke said in an interview with this publication.
After rejoining Gunners much to the allured charm that was dangled in front of him, Mokoke timely received his first month salary back in January but nothing thereafter as the unending stories began. “I could be far by now as Galaxy offered me an opportunity of a lifetime. They even promised to further my coaching badges but look at where I am now, “Mokoke disappointedly explained.
However, Mokoke said he has approached the labour courts for his defaulted payments and as for the piece of land, he registered the case with the High Court of Botswana and they are set to appear for a hearing on the 6th of August. He further added that he has proof of all the documents the official allegedly signed before his own laywers to authorise the land giveaway and the promise of monthly salary payments and furnished the judges with them.
A week ago Mokoke went back home as he was unveiled as the new First Division side Mahalapye Highlanders head coach on a 2 year deal and said he is excited about the new challenge that lies ahead of him as the management gave him attainable goals. “They simply asked me come and help them get promoted back to the premier league by building my own team and promised to avail the resources. I have also been given the authority over the establishment of our junior teams.
To try and achieve all these in a space of 2 years is a fair requirement,” he added. One of the projects Mokoke envisions is to try and unite the people of Mahalapye in terms of trying to get fully behind Highlanders including the supporters and the players in and around the Mahalapye area.
For starters, Mokoke said he wants to alter the tradition that has ingrained at Highlanders as majority of the players there were not from the team’s area of abode and he wants to give Mahalapye players a chance in order for them to don the blue and white of Highlanders with pride and sense of belonging and to steer the ship.
Furthermore, Mokoke is equally peturbed by the trend among the football fraternity of local coaches being undermined while their foreign counterparts enjoy prestigious welfare albeit being equally qualified as them. “Let us change the welfare of our local coaches who have oftentimes showed that they are equally qualified and capable like foreign coaches. Let us invest in our own and also empower them,” said Mokoke in a parting shot.
Botswana shall be sending a team of 34 athletes to represent the country at the biggest games of the 2022 calendar year, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, officially known as the XXII Commonwealth Games.
The Games are slated to take place between the 28th July and 8th August 2022 in Birmingham, England. According to BNSOC, Botswana has been accorded thirty-five (35) slots at the upcoming games and has been able to qualify outright one athlete from the Botswana Weightlifting Federation making the total team size thirty-six (34), the largest team to be fielded by less population country thus far.
In celebrating and lauding this feat by team Botswana, , the British High Commissioner to Botswana, Her Excellency Sian Price recently hosted an intimate reception for the team, at her residence. “Consider this little bit of the UK in Botswana the first stage on your journey to Birmingham. It’s not just me that is excited to have you here, the city of Birmingham is very excited to welcome you, and they are welcoming you and all other family members from across the commonwealth because we are a family of nations, and we enjoy these celebrations that introduce the coming together of family to play together, to celebrate together and to strive together for excellence,” said Price.
Price said this will be the most inclusive Commonwealth Games ever, with more para sports than ever before and for the first time in history this makes me excited; there will be more medal events for women than for men. When addressing the athletes, BNOC CEO Botho Bayendi reveals to ‘unveil’ the concept that is believed to be mastered seed that will grow and bear fruit as they go to Birmingham from today up to the day of departure in 2024.
“As BNOC we have partnered with BITC, and BNSC to conceive a concept called the first, the best and the number one. In this concept, we are trying to persuade the mindset of the people to say that sports is for sports for live, sports generate joy to us all and sports unite,” she said. Bayendi further explained that this is a concept where they will be approaching individuals and companies who in their line of business have been classified as the best of the best or the number one.
“We intend to leverage the national unity behind sports in relation to the ultimate sports excellence. We are saying that we want to create an atmosphere where everybody, every national of Botswana will relate positively with the sports excellence and will be contributing that excellence,” she said. “The Olympic Games are guided by the values of excellence, friendship, and respect. Therefore, we want to be selling these values and allowing everybody, the company, individual to relate with these values.”
For his part chairman of Botswana Olympic Association France Mabiletsa, a former Olympian, said athletes should dream big so that those who come after them will enjoy and benefit from their dreams. He advised them to just enjoy their sport. “Don’t take drugs, don’t dodge from the camps because the moment you start dodging, or you don’t come back you will be punished severely,” he said. Standard charted bank CEO Mpho Masupe said it is important that as athletes they look in the long term and see where they can excel so that they know whether they could make a good coach, teacher, or instructor, saying they should not limit themselves.