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.
Amid the confusion surrounding the date of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) elections, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, met with three presidential candidates on Thursday morning to discuss a plethora of problems bedevilling the domestic game.
The candidates are Maclean Letshwiti, the current President, Tebogo Sebego, the firm challenger of the BFA throne, together with Ookeditse Malesu who enters the race for the first time in his sporting career. There were other two unnamed officials who are said to be representatives from the sport ministry.
The Sport minister is said to have adopted a hard-nosed approach to register his disappointment and worry that the uncertainty of the upcoming elections have injured the administration of the local game.
Highly placed sources at the Sport ministry say that the minister’s ‘no gloves barred’ approach comes at the behest of the BFA’s constant negative headlines regarding their leadership style as of going into the elections.
It is said that Rakgare was also worried that the current administration is keeping the other two camps in the dark regarding the planning and processes bordering on election issues. This, he said has led to unnecessary speculations and back biting that is not needed to lift the game at a time when it is on its knees.
He was to rattle a few feathers at one incident when he called all the three leaders of the game to put their houses in order. As if that was not enough, the minister called on the three lobby groups to desist from serving personal interests but put focus on developing the game.
Interestingly, sources point out that the minister was livid but urged both Letshwiti and Sebego groups to refrain from tarnishing the good image of the ministry. This, he said in response to wide ranging allegations that he is taking sides as campaigns are ongoing.
The Sebego group accuses him of de campaigning Sebego and having a soft spot for Team Letshwiti while the same Letshwiti group is saying the same thing about the minister as having taking curious interest in Sebego camp.
The minister is alleged to have told the leaders that if they do not change their leadership style of protecting those looting public funds, his ministry would intervene even if it means attracting the wrath of FIFA, which is known for its notorious sanctions when countries do not toe the line. He urges BFA to be accountable at all the times they will cut the annual subventions that goes to them, sources claim.
This is not for the first time that the BFA was lectured on good governance. At one incident in 2015, former Minster of Sport Thapelo Olopeng dressed down the then Tebogo Sebego leadership regarding good governance.
BFA was at the time closely monitored by the ministry. Instead of the usual transactions that normally go through BFA, national team players received their allowances straight from government in the form of cheques. To demonstrate that government has taken a firm stand against BFA, players’ allowances were no longer routed through the association.
Nobody from the said meeting will address this publication enquiry all indicating that the consultation is never meant for public consumption.
If everything goes according to plan, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) will hold its annual general assembly next month through a virtual conference.
There has been much uncertainty as to how and when the congress will be held seeing as how COVID-19 protocols remain stringent on gatherings.
Sources speaking with this publication say the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the association has agreed to hold the congress within COVID-19 zones, consequently dispelling all the lingering doubts surrounding the life and soul of the assembly.
As it stands, there are nine COVID -19 zones in Botswana. The association is therefore contemplating to rely within four zones where live streaming will take centre stage for the first time in the history of BFA elections.
The congress was first billed for August 8th but was postponed to August 22nd. However, the second date could not see the light of the day as the country recorded a second rise of coronavirus cases that promptly led to greater Gaborone going into yet another lockdown.
The association has been procrastinating over the virtual congress idea with the election agenda remaining a sticky issue. Many advices came flooding that the association is free to make any decision about the congress but should be very careful not to compromise the integrity of the vote.
Sources indicate to this paper that the association is likely to rely on four COVID-19 zones, namely Gaborone, Francistown, Jwaneng and Palapye. The need to plant the meeting on virtual technologies hinges on the fact that the COVID -19 health protocols do not permit people to cross zones to hold meetings.
Information gleaned from various sources is that the association is looking to rely on four zones primarily because of the limited number of personnel under the electoral board. There are five members consisting of this committee and by the look of things; the association will not be allowed to outsource more election overseers at the eleventh hour. Sources argue that the whole cautious exercise is meant to avoid complaints that may arise after elections are held.
The virtual meeting comes after many failed attempts by the association to convince the Kereng Masupu led Task Force to give out a special dispensation. On many occasions, the Task Force refused to allow for the assembly to go on saying “football is not a priority.”
The assembly is expected to be held next month but the exact date still remains a subject of speculation. In the end, Tebogo Sebego will stand again for the second time to unseat Maclean Letshwiti while Ookeditse Malesu is standing for the first time to try and wrestle for BFA power.
The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, is eager to lead crunch talks that will consequently see Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) becoming one authoritative sport entity.
The appointment of one Tuelo Serufho to the plum position of BNSC Chief Executive Officer two week ago has further catalysed the intention to merge the sports bodies to avoid the long standing complaints of duplication of roles by the two.
Serufho was replacing Falcom Sedimo whose contract was not renewed.Serufho, ironically is the longest serving CEO of BNOC and also a board member of BNSC.“One of our aims is to form a robust sport body to centralize and improve decision making processes and maybe the time to resuscitate BNSC/BNOC merger is now,” Rakgare briefly shared.
The impending move is highly meant to improve effective functioning, governance and performance of sports in the country both locally and globally.Should this see the light of day, Botswana would have done itself a favour and it would start sending a handful of athletes to international competitions.
The amalgamation of BNSC/BNOC talks have been in the pipelines but discussions were aborted two years ago without clear reasons. The creation of this all-encompassing sport institution is overdue according to the minister.
“It is in fact our mandate to make sure this happens, it is overdue and by next year we hope to have finalised our position paper,” Rakgare added.The creation of the looming body is borne out of lessons learnt from various sports governance models around the world.
In South Africa, the sports ministry facilitated discussions to merge National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) and the South African Sports Commission. Their authoritative sports body is now called South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
With the South African model well in place, Botswana is urged to bench mark and create a sport body as a civic society-based organisation as required by the statutes of international sports bodies.The name of the local sport body is mooted and the minister refused to give a hint. But he is optimistic that the body will be the vanguard organization of sport in the country.
He emphasized that the sports organisation should be a purposeful guardian for governance and management of sports and be the required defining figure of the role of sports in Botswana’s communities.Talks to revamp and rebuild these sports bodies come at a time when BNSC is restructuring.
When Sedimo was still at the helm, he wanted to phase out some positions which he felt were unnecessary.BNSC receive close to 53 million Pula as grants from the government through the Ministry of Youth, Sports development and Culture empowerment while BNOC takes a figure a closer to that.