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Orapa United- a tale of diamonds and football delight

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.

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AFCON 2023’s stats of celerity

6th February 2024

The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is renowned for its intense and thrilling matches that captivate millions of football lovers worldwide. So far, football fans have been treated to enormous upsets, eleventh-hour heroics, a plethora of goals, and innumerable twists reminiscent of a Hollywood screenplay deemed too extravagant – the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) appears to encompass everything. The tournament’s standout stars were largely overshadowed by lesser-known figures who appeared intent on perpetuating surprises.

Traditionally, AFCON has been ruled by Africa’s top-tier teams like Egypt, Cameroon, and Senegal, among others. However, this year’s edition has proven to be a conundrum for the continent’s elite nations as they grappled with underdogs in both the group stages and the round of 16.

Furthermore, the 2023 AFCON group stage unfolded as a rollercoaster of emotions, featuring unforeseen upsets, dramatic last-minute heroics, and a deluge of goals that left football aficionados on the edge of their seats.

 

BIG 5 Eliminated

Arguably the most stunning upset of the tournament unfolded when the Brave Warriors of Namibia, ranked 115th globally, triumphed over Tunisia with a solitary goal during the group stages. However, their exultation was short-lived as they suffered a resounding 4-0 defeat at the hands of South Africa, marking the most significant setback of their campaign.

Despite their earlier triumph and a hard-fought 0-0 draw against Mali, Namibia’s journey came to an abrupt end as they were soundly defeated 3-0 by Angola, leading to their exit from the tournament.

Another major exit was that of the Pharaohs of Egypt, who were eliminated by DR Congo in a nail-biting penalty shoot-out (8-7) following a 1-1 draw after extra time. Additionally, former champions Ghana, Algeria, and Tunisia all failed to advance to the round of 16, while Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde, and Angola topped their respective groups.

For the second consecutive tournament, Algeria, a two-time champion, suffered an early exit in the group stages, as minnows Mauritania secured a historic first-ever victory at the finals, securing a spot in the last 16 at their expense. Another powerhouse, Ghana, also fell short of reaching the knockout stage, as the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon rallied from behind to defeat Gambia, dashing the Black Stars’ hopes of qualifying as one of the best third-placed teams with just two points.

6 coaches FIRED!

Six coaches have already been ousted from their positions, as the Black Stars of Ghana swiftly dismissed Chris Hughton following their elimination, sparking a wave of departures. They concluded their campaign in third place with a mere two points.

Tom Saintfiet tendered his resignation as head of The Gambia mere moments after their exit, unable to replicate the success of their AFCON debut two years prior when they reached the quarter-finals.

While it came as less of a surprise, Algeria parted ways with Djamel Belmadi and Jalel Kadri resigned as manager of Tunisia. Additionally, Ivory Coast took swift action after finishing third in Group A.

Jean-Louis Gasset bore the consequences of their defeats against Equatorial Guinea, the most significant losses in his team’s history, transforming eager anticipation into chagrin among the Elephants’ supporters. Strangely, Ivory Coast still managed to qualify after Gasset’s departure.

Meanwhile, the Confederation of African Football imposed an eight-match ban and a $10,000 fine on Tanzania coach Adel Amrouche, leading to his subsequent dismissal by the Tanzania Football Federation.

5 real UPSETS

The Ivory Coast, serving as the host nation, found themselves on the brink of elimination, while unexpected underdogs took center stage, overshadowing even the most celebrated players.

Despite their peculiar decisions both on and off the pitch, the hosts have miraculously secured a place in the quarter-finals after a thrilling 5-4 victory on penalties over the defending champions, Senegal, following a 1-1 draw, further intensifying the tournament’s excitement.

Another major upset unfolded when Bafana Bafana clashed with Morocco, Africa’s top-ranked team, in a quest to secure a spot in the quarter-finals. It seemed improbable for a Southern African Development Community (SADC) nation to stand a chance against a team boasting European-based stars such as Ashraf Hakimi, Youssef En-Nesyri, Azzedline Ounahi, and Nayef Aguerd, among others. However, against all odds, Bafana managed to withstand the pressure posed by the formidable team, securing victory through beautifully executed goals by Evidence Makgopa and Tebogo Mokoena.

Cape Verde also emerged as a surprise contender, with their AFCON campaign featuring a 2-1 victory over the formidable Ghana, a 2-2 draw against Egypt, and a 1-0 win over Mozambique, ensuring their progression to the round of 16. Building on these heroic performances, the Blue Sharks of Cabo Verde defeated Mauritania by a single goal, securing a place in the quarter-finals where they are set to battle Bafana for a spot in the semi-finals.

Adding to the excitement, DR Congo exhibited resilience in their approach against Egypt, forcing the game to penalties which they won 7-8.

105 GOALS…still counting

The 2023 AFCON has not only witnessed the best scoring ratio in over a decade, but it has also set a new record for shot-to-goal conversion rate since 2010, with an impressive 12.3% of the 521 shots taken finding the back of the net in 44 out of 52 matches played.

Moreover, the total number of goals scored has reached 105 with seven matches remaining, surpassing the previous record of 102 set in the 2019 AFCON held in Egypt. Notably, Emillo Nsue of Equatorial Guinea currently leads the scoring charts with five goals, having achieved the first AFCON hat-trick since 2008, marking a significant milestone in the competition.

Nsue’s remarkable performance underscores the high level of talent on display at the 2023 AFCON, which has also boasted the highest goals per game ratio on record (2.7) since 2008. Furthermore, he has etched his name in history as the oldest player to score a hat-trick in an AFCON match, among other individual milestones achieved during the Group Stage.

 

Regrettably, Nsue and his team have been eliminated from the tournament after a crucial missed penalty cost them an advantage, leading to a late winner for Guinea. The question now remains: will anyone be able to surpass Nsue’s impressive goal-scoring feat?

131 YELLOW cards & 9 RED cards

The intensity and excitement of AFCON 2023 has been a delight for football lovers. As the tournament progresses, the number of yellow and red cards issued by referees serves as a testament to the tight competition and adds to the excitement.

After 44 out of 52 matches played, the referees have already issued 131 yellow cards and nine red cards. These statistics indicate the fierce competition and the high stakes involved in each game. The yellow and red cards serve as a reflection of the players’ determination, passion, and sometimes, their frustration. The referees’ strict enforcement of the rules ensures that the matches remain fair and competitive, adding to the overall intensity of the tournament.

The issuance of yellow and red cards also demonstrates the physicality and aggression displayed by the teams. AFCON is known for its robust style of play, where players exhibit their strength and skill to gain an advantage. The referees’ vigilance in penalizing fouls and misconducts ensures that the matches maintain a balance between competitiveness and fair play. This intensity on the field keeps the spectators on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating the outcome of each match.

The Delight of Football Lovers

The tight and intense nature of AFCON 2023 undoubtedly adds to the delight of millions of football lovers who tune in to witness this showpiece event. The passion and dedication exhibited by the players resonate with fans, creating a sense of unity and excitement. The tournament becomes a platform for supporters to rally behind their respective nations, fostering a sense of national pride and camaraderie.

Moreover, the potential for surprises in AFCON 2023 further enhances the delight of football lovers. Nations such as Cape Verde, Mali, Guinea, and Angola, who have never experienced AFCON glory, have the opportunity to make history. The prospect of an underdog nation emerging victorious in the end adds an element of unpredictability and excitement to the tournament. Football enthusiasts revel in witnessing the rise of unexpected heroes and the triumph of the underdogs, making the competition even more captivating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BFL scuffle incites Rakgare

17th January 2024

The leadership scuffle within the Botswana Football League (BFL) has reached a critical point, with the Botswana Football Association (BFA) refusing to meet with Minister of Sports, Tumiso Rakgare, to discuss the ongoing crisis. The BFA argues that government interference would violate FIFA statutes and believes that there are internal structures in place to resolve the matter.

Minister Rakgare expressed his concern over the situation, as he believes that the feud could disrupt national football activities. He wanted to understand the details of the conflict and the mechanisms in place to bring about a resolution. The Ministry of Sports has stated that they will summon the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) to discuss how to proceed in dealing with an affiliate funded by the government that chooses to dictate its relationship with the government.

In the midst of this turmoil, BFL chairman Nicolas Zakhem, who had previously taken the shareholders to court to challenge his removal from the board, has been suspended from football activities by fellow board member Tebogo Sebego. Sebego cited Article 26 of the BFL constitution, which aligns with BFA and FIFA statutes, stating that disputes within football should not be taken to court until all prescribed procedures have been exhausted. Zakhem’s suspension has caused another board member, Jagdish Shah, to resign from the BFL board.

An emergency meeting between the BFA, BFL board, and shareholders was held, but it failed to yield any results. Shareholders threatened to boycott the meeting if Zakhem was allowed to participate, leading to further tensions. As a result, the premier league and first division leagues remain suspended until certain issues are addressed.

BFA WARN CLUBS AS THE IMPASSE CONTINUE

In a letter signed by BFA CEO Mfolo Mfolo, part of the letter reads, “As we approach the upcoming League matches, we are writing to emphasize the critical importance of your attendance and active participation. Attending League matches is not only a responsibility but a fundamental obligation outlined in the statues and regulations of governing football in Botswana.

Mfolo further said the mediation meeting which was held on the 10 January 2024 to facilitate a constructive dialogue among the concerned parties, aiming for an amicable resolution failed to yield the desired success.

“During the mediations, the parties reiterated their right to suspend league activities until their demands are met. This assertion poses significant challenges to the overall governance and operational stability of the league.” Mfolo said.

The BFA chief further said its imperative to note that the threat to suspend the league activities is in violation of several provision outlined in the BFA Constitution and the Memorandum of Agreement between the BFL and BFA.

It remains to be seen as to how the conflict will be resolved. The leadership scuffle within the BFL has escalated to the point where the BFA refused to meet with the Minister of Sports to discuss the crisis.

The BFA argues that government interference would violate FIFA statutes and believes that internal structures are in place to resolve the matter. Meanwhile, the suspension of BFL chairman Zakhem and the resignation of board member Shah have added to the turmoil.

 

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BAA’s Quest for Olympic Medals: A P5 million riddle

17th January 2024

The Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) is gearing up for the highly anticipated Paris Olympics 2024. With a history of producing exceptional athletes, Botswana has seen success in previous Olympic Games, including a silver and bronze medal. However, with only five male runners having qualified thus far and no female athletes making the cut, the BAA is facing financial challenges in their pursuit of two medals. STAFF WRITER TSHEPO KEHIMILE explores the BAA’s need for P5 million in funding, the current state of qualification, and the importance of financial support for athletes’ preparations.

The BAA has estimated that they will need more than P5 million to adequately prepare their athletes for the Paris Olympics. This funding will be directed towards athletes’ training camps and preparations to ensure they are ready for the Games in July. In an interview with this publication, BAA Vice President Administration, Oabona Theetso said they will need a financial assistance from the government. “The money will be directed to athletes’ preparations and training camps to ensure they are ready when the Olympics Games begin in July,” he explained.

The BAA Vice President Administration has emphasized the importance of financial assistance from the government to meet these requirements.

As of now, only five male runners have qualified for the Olympics, while no female athletes have secured their spots. The BAA had set a target of 12 athletes for the main event, raising concerns about whether the current qualifiers will be enough to bring home the targeted two medals. Theetso remains confident that more athletes can still qualify if additional resources are made available.

Looking back at previous Olympic Games, Botswana’s performance has been a mix of successes and missed opportunities. In 2012, Nijel Amos won Botswana’s first Olympic medal, a silver in the 800m event. In 2021, the Men’s 4x400m relay team which comprised of Isaac Makwala, Bayapo Ndori, Zibane Ngozi and Baboloki Thebe secured a bronze medal in Tokyo. However, in previous Games, Botswana failed to bring home any medals despite sending teams of athletes.

The absence of female athletes who have qualified for the Olympics thus far is a significant concern for the BAA. This is the first time since 2004 that no female athletes have made the cut at this point. However, Theetso assures that Botswana has capable female athletes who can reach the Olympics, as it is every athlete’s dream to compete at such a prestigious event.

So far, Letsile Tebogo (100m & 200m), Bayapo Ndori (400m), Leungo Scotch (400m), Busang Collen Kebinatshipi (400m) and Tshepiso Masalela (800m) are the only athletes who have already qualified for the upcoming Olympics which prompts a question of whether these lads will be enough to bring the targeted two medals home.

From the look of things, the Botswana Athletics Association is facing a financial challenge as they strive to secure two medals at the Paris Olympics 2024. With only five male runners having qualified and no female athletes making the cut, the BAA is in need of P5 million in funding to support athletes’ preparations and training camps. While Botswana has seen success in previous Olympic Games, the absence of female qualifiers and the limited number of current qualifiers raise concerns about achieving the desired results. Financial support from the government is crucial to ensure that Botswana’s athletes are adequately prepared to compete at the highest level. With dedication, hard work, and the necessary resources, Botswana’s athletes have the potential to make their mark at the Paris Olympics 2024.

 

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