Mochudi Centre Chiefs has the knotty task of defending the league title against wounded Township Rollers which gave away the title to their rivals last season despite leading the log for the better part of the season. This season, Rollers will be out for revenge while Chiefs will be looking at defending their title.
While many will publicly not admit it, ever since the arrival of network giants, be MOBILE as sponsor, the league has been synonymous with the big two; Township Rollers and Mochudi Centre Chiefs. The two teams are arguably the most followed in the country.
A PERENNIAL TWO HORSE RACE
Apart from Rollers and Chiefs, only Gaborone United has managed to win the Be Mobile Premiership, a feat it never managed to emulate for the past six seasons. Both Rollers and Chiefs are equal on three titles each. A league victory for one of the sides this season will see it gaining superiority and bragging rights.
This season nothing has changed pretty much. Both Rollers and Chiefs remain real title contenders. There will be of course Gaborone United and BDF XI chasing the pack but history reveals that, the title is not theirs.
Last season Orapa United became a surprise package and was able to keep both Chiefs and Rollers at their bay in the title race. In the end, Orapa United surprisingly finished ahead of Rollers in the league standing as they completed the league as runners-up.
This season is no different. Both Rollers and Chiefs have been pretty busy in the transfer market in an effort to bolster their squads. Rollers have signed former players Mogogi Gabonamong, Kabelo Dambe and former Chiefs player Moyana as their marquee signings. Reports also indicate that Zebras captain, Joel Mogorosi may also re-join if he does not find offers in South Africa’s PSL.
Chiefs on the other hand have signed former Ajax Cape Town player Makhanyaseli Siwawhla and former Gaborone United midfielder Jackie Mothatego as probably their major signings. The Kgatleng giants also added Mpho Kgwaswane to their squad among others.
The two teams began the league title race in an impressive fashion last weekend. Chiefs debased BR Highlanders 5-0 at Molepolole Sport Complex, with their top marksman Kekaetswe ‘Mara’ Moloi appearing twice on the score sheet. Captain Pontsho Moloi, Tendai Nyamusi and debutant Mothatego also scored.
Rollers eased past BDF XI on Saturday night at the National Stadium. Segolame Boy registered a brace, while Jerome Ramatlhakwana, and Lawrence Majawa also registered a goal each in a 4-1 victory.
Chiefs have an advantageous situation as they have maintained majority of the title winning squad. They have a smaller squad and with less egos in the dressing room to manage. Coach Mike Sithole is an instrumental factor in the league race as well. He has a wealth of experience and knows the expectations that come with being at the helm of Chiefs’ hot seat.
Meanwhile Rollers have made various changes since they surrendered the title to their rivals. Mandinda Ndlovu has left, so did Dirang Moloi who was signed on short contract. Rollers have hired British tactician Mark Harrison to steer the Blues back to their glory days.
Looking at the fixture list, the big game is in two months time (October) .A Rollers-Chiefs game which could prove decisive, not so much in terms of the title race but as a timely confidence boost going forward. Everything hinges on whether Chiefs or Rollers come out on top, whether a draw favours one side or the other, whether there is a change at the top of the table or not.
Last season, Rollers title hopes were ended by the same fixture after a 1-0 defeat courtesy of Lemponye Tshireletso’s goal. Since then Rollers could not make a comeback, in fact, it was the beginning of the end of its title aspirations.
CHASING THE PACK
Apart from obvious favourites in Rollers and Chiefs, there are few sides that will make efforts to challenge the big two. Gaborone United is an obvious choice, having been the inaugural winner in 2008/09 season, The Reds feel compelled to strive for emulation of six years ago heroics. Every season GU has failed to rise to the occasion even at a point where it had signed the best players in the league.
GU has however managed to do well in cup competitions becoming the only side to win Mascom Top 8 twice. Gaborone United finished the league title in fourth position last season.
Orapa United proved to doubters last season what it’s capable of. Following smart signings. The Ostriches were able to give up on the title hopes at the last day. United went on to finish ahead of Rollers in the title race.
This season, Orapa United has not made more changes, and has brought in two more important signings in Manqoba Ngwenya and Coach Madinda Ndlovu. Ngwenya knows how to score goals while Ndlovu has tasted the feeling of winning the league. Those important qualities will be vital for Orapa United if it challenges the league.
BDF XI will be keeping an eye on the big two as well. In 2013/14 season, the army men looked like they were on their way to lift the be Mobile league title for the first time, until their morale was dampened by deduction of six points after being found guilty of taking football matters to court. This season BDF XI still look exciting despite suffering a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Rollers in the opening game.
Extension Gunners also look like a side which will give title chasers a run for their money. The Lobatse side had an impressive pre-season and looked like a well-polished machine. Under the tutelage of former Zebras player Pio Paul, Ezi-Mnyama project promising prospects for this season.
Dubbed the sleeping giants, Gunners has not lived up to expectations in the past seasons. Ironically at some point, the side found itself fighting to survive relegation rather trying to end at the top. Gunners will be definitely a side to watch this season.
Stubborn Nico United will also prove to be a team to watch. Majombolo rarely disappoints and have caused major upset to title ambitions of the big three. Both Rollers and Chiefs have suffered upsets at the hands of the Selebi Phikwe side.
Police XI is another side that is capable of keeping up with the big three, but it will definitely finish in the middle bracket. There is no sign that the Jungle Kings will struggle or fight clear relegation battle.
The same goes for Gilport Lions (formerly BMC). The newly acquired team has no precursors of a title winning side. If it’s anything, inability to stay in the middle of the log will see it fighting relegation.
The biggest surprise in local football last season was Sankoyo Bush Bucks with its heroics. With a squad of nonentities Ngurungu was able to produce one of the season’s exciting performances. Ngurungu turned Maun Sports Complex into their slaughterhouse and the team was able to attract big crowds week-in and week-out. Many doubts if the team will be able to achieve the feat or not.
WHO WILL RELEGATE?
Relegation is a debacle that is more often than not unpredictable. At the beginning of last season, nobody would have imagined that all-present league side Notwane FC would have bitten the dust. The same imagination would not have been put on former league champions Ecco City Greens. BR Highlanders, Satmos, Sankoyo Bush Bucks survived the chop last season. But the odds are still stack against Satmos which survived the relegation after victory in a dramatic play-off encounter with Notwane FC at the Serowe Sports Complex.
BR Highlanders will need to do a lot to stay away from the axe. Jwaneng Galaxy will have to prove itself as well. After adopting the same model adopted by Orapa United, there is a sense of hope that Galaxy has joined the top flight football for ever.
Green Lovers will also have to do a lot to stay. It has proved difficult for new comers to survive their first stint in the top flight. The team has not added major singings to their squad yet, and reliance on the same squad which took them to elite league would not necessarily save them.
Miscellaneous bounce back not for the first time, and it seems like they are enjoying the trend of pendulum. It will take another phenomenon for them to survive, at least for another season.
Local sprinter, Letsile Tebogo has been rewarded with a whopping P150 000.00 by Orange Botswana for his heroics at the recently held World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Speaking at a Handover Ceremony for Tebogo, Orange Botswana Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Maano Masisi said, Orange Botswana is steadfast in their commitment to nurturing the youth and promoting sports in diverse ways.
“Letsile stands as a formidable force and an inspiration to young Batswana, showcasing the value of sports not only in Botswana but on an international stage through his remarkable achievements. Orange Botswana, furthermore, desires to cultivate enduring relationships with aspiring young Batswana, much like Letsile, who embody dedication, focus, and excellence in their endeavors. Letsile has already shattered records, etching new milestones for the African continent and beyond,”
Masisi further said the partnership aligns seamlessly with Orange Botswana’s dedication to acknowledging exceptional individual talent like Tebogo.
“As previously announced when we started this relationship, our collaboration with yourself entails financial support from Orange Botswana to fuel your journey in competitive sports, alongside your representation as the face of Orange Botswana,” he said.
For his part, Tebogo pleaded with Orange Botswana to extend his contract as it is beneficial to him, “I am thankful to Orange Botswana and I hope they could extent my contract as it has been very helpful.”
Meanwhile, Tebogo’s coach, Kebonyemodisa ‘Dose’ Mosimanyana was also showered with P10 000.00 for always ensuring that Tebogo is ready to take on the world.
Local athletes, Zibane Ngozi and Letsile Tebogo have confronted Minister of Youth, Gender and Culture, Tumiso Rakgare citing lack of support during preparations.
Speaking at the World Champs team Welcome Ceremony on Wednesday, the 4 x 400m relay specialist and Team Captain, Ngozi urged some of the government officials inclusive of Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) representative, Rakgare to attend these high-profile competitions to witness the hardships they go through during these competitions.
“People need to understand it is not easy for us when we arrive at the World stage, there is a lot that is going on hence we need support in order for us to succeed as expected.
However, I am happy that immediately when I arrived in Botswana, BNSC credited our allowances which was a good thing because we had lots of debts (jokingly) thus we manage to settle them,” he said.
On the other hand, Tebogo who brought home two medals (silver and bronze) from 100m and 200m respectively at the World Champs said most athletes are going through depression due unfavorable conditions.
“Most of us going through depression because we lack support during preparations, we are only celebrated when we win but in hard times we are forgotten. Athletics is a difficult sport hence we need all the support we could to make it through and eventually amass medals as it is expected by our country,”
For his part, Rakgare admitted that local sport is faced with challenges, including but not limited to a tough sponsorship environment, limited or no sport in public schools, doping and leadership instability.
“I would of course be surprised if anyone of you would not agree with me that notwithstanding the challenges, we continue to achieve unprecedented results in sport, and the year to date is no exception,” he said.
Rakgare gave special recognition to Oratile Rose Nowe for heroics at the World Champs, “I would like to take this opportunity and congratulate Nowe for attaining a new personal best 2:01.62 in Women’s 800m, which also happens to be a national record. By the way, Oratile is the first Motswana woman to ever qualify for the World Championships in middle distance running.”
According to Rakgare, Government, recognizes athletes’ achievements at any and every competition, and that is why most recently, they have rewarded them at the Youth and Sport Awards.
“I would like to thank the Government of Botswana for their investment in sport. We continue to pride ourselves in being one of the best funders of sport per capita, and as indicated earlier, we are not intending to slow down anytime soon,”
On a lighter note, World Champs BW Team was rewarded by various companies such as Debswana, Choppies, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) and also government as a token of appreciation for participating in Hungary.
Tebogo was rewarded with P560 000 from Debswana, Choppies and BPC for bringing two medals home, 4 x 400m men relay finalists (Ngozi, Baboloki Thebe, Laone Ditshetelo and Leungo were given P25 000 apiece for reaching the finals and participating by Debswana; while ladies (Tlhomphang Basele, Golekanye Chikani, Lydia Jele, Oratile Nowe, Galefele Moroko, Obakeng Kamberuka were given P10 000 each for participation.
In addition, the World Champs team amassed P926 000.00 of which P250 000 would go to Tebogo and the remaining P676 000 will be shared amongst the rest of the team.
With several local associations currently going through a rough patch in terms of financial quagmires, Botswana Netball Association (BONA) Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mokeresete Mokeresete is optimistic to host the 2023 Africa Netball Cup as per the request from African Netball Board (Executive Committee) because Uganda has pulled out.
Will it be successful or finally quench the thirst of competing internationally?
The African Netball Championships or Africa Netball Cup are a netball competition held every after two years with teams from across Africa competing for the top price.
BONA National team competed in the last edition of the Africa Netball Cup which was held in 2021 in Namibia and they finished in position seven which was average.
Last time BONA hosted an event of this magnitude was the 2017 Netball Youth World Cup which was indeed a success even though the local team (Dinaletsana) finished in position 10.
One would have thought that the Dinaletsana team which looked promising would eventually go on and conquer the world in the following international competitions. However, that has not been the case as they struggled to qualify for the recent World Cup which was held in the neighboring South Africa.
In addition, the Botswana Netball League was last played in November 2022 and in 2023 they hosted a Fast Five Netball Cup just before the Netball World Cup.
In an interview with WeekendSport this week, BONA Public Relations Officer (PRO) said they have accepted to host the 2023 Africa Netball Cup following the pulling out of Uganda.
“We have recently accepted a request to the 2023 Africa Netball Cup, however – we are still working on finalizing all the logistics that will be in play as you are aware that hosting an event requires a budget which might be difficult because we were given a smaller potion in the recent financial year.
Furthermore, we are yet to come up with a consolidated budget which could help us map a way forward as we really want to stage this particular competition. It is vital for us to host this competition as we want to revitalize local netball, we want to attract more for the league,” said Mokeresete Mokeresete.
MORE NETBALL ACTION AHEAD?
Mokeresete further hinted that the upcoming Independence Cup will be preparatory tournament for the upcoming Africa Netball Cup.
“We are going to host the Independence Cup of which we are expected at least 16 ladies’ teams and a few of male’ teams as we are still swiftly introducing the male section to the sport in Orapa.
However, prior to the action we are going conduct courses for match officials, technical official and coaches’ beginners’ level 1 courses as an effort of improve the standards of the sporting code,” hinted Mokeresete.
MISSING THE RECENT NETBALL WORLD CUP WAS CATASTROPHIC
According to BONA PRO, missing the recent Netball World Cup was catastrophic as players missed out on an opportunity to showcase their talents on the world stage which was bound to garner those deals to more professional countries in terms of Netball.
“We are seeing lots of movement for players from countries like Zimbabwe which is remarkable and that could have happened for our player – but it wasn’t to be as we did not qualify for the main event.
Moreover, through the World Cup Legacy Program, we have been awarded a sprung board and we are contention to transport it from South Africa to the country as one of the requirements to host a sporting event is to have a sprung floor,”
Meanwhile, the 2023 Africa Netball Cup is scheduled between November 26 – October 06 2023 at University of Botswana (UB) Indoor Sports Arena.