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.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) is running without a substantive Technical Director since parting ways with South African native, Serame Letsoaka, who jumped ship midway through his contract in 2019.
This glaring revelation has left the Technical Department of the association hamstrung to fully operate by the book hence a plethora of problems protruding on the very nose of it.
This is the reason it took long for the association to take stern action against Zebras gaffer, Adel Amrouche. His departure was sanctioned at the eleventh hour when players’ patience had long wilted, threatening to leave the camp.
Pundits will therefore observe that it is the absence of a Technical Director that has caused all hell to break loose at Lekidi Football Centre.Since the departure of Letsoaka, the TD position has been more or less vacant as it has been manned by unqualified and somewhat incompetent administrators to date.
The TD position requires a CAF A-License qualification as well as a Diploma in Secondary Education as minimum qualifications. Among the specific duties of TD is; training and development of coaches, including design and updating of coaches manuals, facilitating licensing courses, developing a coaches Code of Conduct, arranging for expert and specialist coaches to deliver training clinics, education on rules of the game and creating and maintaining a library of resources including books, videos and articles for coaches to access.
The responsibility also include establishing and delivering a comprehensive and nationwide Grassroots programme at both the community level, in schools, and in the schools through clubs through strategic partnerships within the communities and with various government ministries and agencies.
TD also advices BFA on all matters related to the effective development of football in Botswana and is accountable for the development of a strategy and policy for the performance of football programmes.
Other duties include working with Youth National teams and coaches through development programmes in order to enable BFA to attain its goals within CAF and FIFA, including putting in place clear systems and processes for identifying and developing talented players.
After Letsoaka left, BFA reached out to Wire Kaelo, a Gaborone United legend currently holding the position of assistant coach at Security System FC, but eventually he was not appointed to the post.
Despite rumours to the effect that BFA had agreed terms with Kaelo to this day, the Association has not come out as to what happened to the alleged marriage.
BFA subsequently appointed one Dr Carolin Braun, on secondment from the German Olympic organisation, a move that left the association rooted in abrasive factionalism.
In particular, local coaches and the general football fanatics have always cried foul claiming that Dr Braun is not fit to hold the position of TD especially in a growing football environment like Botswana.
There is growing concern that Dr Braun does not have the pre-requisite credentials to be appointed for this plum post as she has never held any significant position within the football fraternity, not even at amateur level.
“It was a first in the history of Botswana football to see a TD doubling up as assistant coach to the senior national team and there has been no tangible coaching courses since the departure of Serame Letsoaka and this has been attributable to the vacant position of TD,” a source remarked.
BFA is currently failing to communicate CAF’s decision that the ill-fated CAF “B” and “C” courses held during Serame’s last days were not sanctioned and therefore attendants will not be certificated.
Over 50 local coaches participated in the courses and last year, most of those coaching in the Premier League had to be given waivers by the BFA Technical Committee before they could be accredited.
CAF has since indicated that the issue of waivers by national associations will not be entertained, something which might throw local games into disarray.BFA is still failing to come up with a coaching philosophy despite Serame having started groundwork before his departure.
Other countries such as Zambia have since resumed CAF coaching courses whilst in Botswana is still business as usual despite the impending challenges caused by indiscretion and lack of foresight.
Despite BFA having advertised the position of TD and subsequently holding interviews where recommendations were done by the Technical and Development Committee, the BFA NEC has refused to endorse the recommendation for reasons only best known to them.
Yet, there is a lingering fact that the NEC is clueless when it comes to technical matters. There is not even a single individual in the NEC who holds any coaching qualification including the Chairman of the member responsible for technical and development matters, Masego Ntshingane.
When asked about the position of the TD, Ntshingane said the association is well aware of the matter and will son fill the post. “Yes, it is true the association has not appointed a TD after Letsoaka’s departure, but we are working around the clock to hire capable people,” he said.
However, local coaches believe that it’s a travesty of justice to expect non-technical people to make meaningful contributions on technical matters to the extent that they can veto recommendations from a committee of renowned technical experts.
It is not business as usual in the operations manual of African football. Ever since the ascendency of Dr. Patrice Motsepe to the CAF plum post, the African football governing body is ringing changes to satisfy the demands and governance standards of the modern game.
However, it appears that what is coming out from the high offices of the game is a bitter pill to swallow for local clubs, some of which are touted to be the best in the land.
Connectedly, CAF has issued a circular to the effect that only coaches holding the CAF “A” education license will be permitted to sit on the technical dugout during the upcoming inter club competitions. This communication has been sent to all 54 CAF member associations in May 2021.
However, it seems local clubs have not been appraised on this development even though both Jwaneng Galaxy and Orapa United have shown desire to represent the country in the CAF competitions.
It comes to the fore now that the two clubs can successfully represent the country if they engage coaches with the pre-requisite qualifications which is now an insurmountable task due to the COVID-19 impact on club finances.
Both clubs have hired coaches who attended the ill-fated BFA conducted CAF “B” and “A” coaching courses which were held in Lobatse almost two years ago.
To date the coaches await the completion of the courses and certificates while CAF has made it clear that the courses were not sanctioned as they were held during the era that coaching licenses were suspended, a situation that BFA was well aware of and has since accepted the consequences.
The BFA is still at sixes and sevens on how to break the issue to the affected coaches as it is likely to cause a huge public embarrassment and backlash from the coaching fraternity.
“We all know about the problem, BFA is promising to come to the bottom of the matter as we continue to engage them,” says Botswana Football Coaches Association (BFCA) interim President, Daniel Nare.
CAF has also made it clear that this time there will be no waiver for coaches without the pre-requisite qualification because the Confederation has been too lenient in the past. During the last CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup, both Galaxy and Orapa United coaches were given a reprieve by CAF Technical Department as they did not even have the CAF “B” license.
When approached for clarity, the Spokesperson for Galaxy, Tankiso Morake said they are playing a waiting game when it comes to CAF issues especially that BFA is yet to reply to their letter. “Honestly, there is nothing concrete I can share because no one is certain about anything. We are waiting to be replied by the association so that we can finalize everything,” he said.
While United was not available for comment, it is clear that both clubs will need to hire coaches with the needed qualifications otherwise playing in this year’s edition of African football mirrors a tomorrow that may never come.
A recent study shows that Township Rollers is not only popular within the perimeters of Botswana, but has also made significant steps within the digital football platforms in Africa.
Out of the 70 African football clubs ranked on the African football digital benchmark, Township Rollers comes on the 35th position backed by a massive social media following. The club website records more than 399 000 followers and is seen as the most interactive in the local game.
This is consistent with the recent study conducted by FIFA- world football governing body- that Rollers is the only team locally that makes use of its digital platforms.
Notably, it comes out that the gap between Township Rollers and the rest of the 15 Premier League clubs is abysmal, this therefore works against creating a strong BPL brand value.
Rollers is the only club with more than 50 000 followers on Facebook, more than 20 000 followers on Twitter while its Instagram platform stands strong at 27 800 followers.
However, it is found out that much of the BPL brand value is killed by some social Facebook football fan accounts. They have stood long and have thus attracted more followers than the official accounts. Pages like Killers Pass and Botswana Football have consequently seen more than 100 000 following. Both of the accounts give 24 hour on-going updates of football’s latest news, transfers, results, video and live updates.
FIFA has therefore come to a conclusion that the two social media pages have grown interactive since they incite followers to answer and present their impressions about local football.
It comes into the open that 70 percent of domestic premier league clubs do not have official websites. This according to FIFA, kills the brand and visibility of clubs hence failure to attract lucrative sponsors by the clubs. FIFA also found out that the remaining 30 percent of clubs with websites are lacklustre and found wanting when it comes to their online presence. But in this regard, Rollers is on pole position.