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Will Police XI be contenders this season?

The Jungle Kings ‘s demolition of premier league teams suggests a tilt at the top four,  and effectively places them at the top of the standings, but Maxwell ‘s  teams have in the past often failed to use such results as a platform for greater things.


Police XI has not received half the credit they deserve for leading the pack in the be MOBILE premiership. Although that is partly due to the fact that the defending champions, Mochudi Centre Chiefs’s wretched start to the season is the bigger story, especially when illustrated with pictures of a grumpy Mike Sithole and team followers. But partly it is due to Police XI’s own status as an up-and-down sort of side team, a typical Maxwell Moyo outfit.


In the wider scheme of things the Jungle Kings are not expected to carry on like this all season, terrorising all who come their way and making a serious push for top honours. It could happen, but most probably it won’t. The Kings were off to a good start this season when newly promoted Galaxy FC came along and were thrashed 2-1.


A winning start was a reasonable result in the end but it still had supporters expressing doubts, once again, over Moyo’s style of coaching and suitability for the job. The same supporters are however happy now, after a series of joyous afternoons against other league teams when every single one of Maxwell Moyo’s decisions came to inscribe a good start the team ever had.


That is not to imply Police XI will lose at a time where they gained a respectable point last season, just to point out that their form and results can be wildly unpredictable. Everyone feared the worst when Everton had to go to play Sankoyo Bush Bucks. They easily scored 3 goals and this was followed by a stylish 4-1 win against Gilport Lions. All in all it was a long way from what most people were expecting.


However, the Jungle Kings are not yet the talk of the town. The football headlines are still dominated by Rollers, Gunners and Center Chiefs, but the truth is they are yet to record their first defeat this season-and even when they do, nobody will leap-frog them.


Is this the start of something big at Police XI with Maxwell Moyo, or is he simply doing what he used to do at Orapa United, producing stellar performances one week then mistake-ridden calamities the next? A roller-coaster would be the cliché of choice for the Maxwell Moyo years at United, beating all the big names in the Premier League but leaking points to lesser opponents all the while, though helter skelter might be a more apt description of the final few weeks, Mascom top 8 qualification and top 2 spot notwithstanding.

Moyo and Orapa United never got the credit they deserved for taking Mochudi Center Chiefs and Rollers apart at Itekeng stadium either. Once again most of the coverage focused on the opposing coach – it turned out to be Madinda Ndlovu’s last season and Rollers in particular were therefore excused for a lacklustre display – when in reality Moyo should have been lauded for his tactical acumen and his ability to get the absolute utmost from a collection of mostly ordinary players.


The all round truth is that Police XI have made a better start to the season than Chiefs, Rollers and Gunners – though it is an assessment that really needs to be made in the second half of the season, not the first couple of months.


The team needs to develop consistency, to become a team feared by opponents for picking up points as well as rave reviews. Everyone knows they can hit the heights, everyone also knows there are likely to be troughs as well.


Currently, the tendency is to wait for the next result to put the last one into perspective. If Moyo can break that spell he could take his side to the next level. Confidence is currently coursing through the club, though the same could be said of Rollers who are also yet to register a loss this season.


Police XI is however arising and it shows they can top that mini-group first, before they aim any higher. It is traditional at this point to observe that the Jungle Kings, or any other team like them, will have a good chance in the cup if they are not quite strong enough for the league but can raise their game when the occasion demands. That is both patronising and old-fashioned. The cups have had their day. Consistency is now the bigger prize.

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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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