The extent to which Madinda Ndlovu can maintain his squad’s balance with new arrivals will go a long way in deciding the outcome of Township Rollers’ title defence, argues STAFF WRITER MOSIMANEGAPE TSHOSWANE Township Rollers hell-bent on achieving what Mochudi Centre Chiefs have achieved in recent times, that is to retain the championship in the Premier League era.
To help in this quest, Madinda Ndlovu and Jagdish Shah have acquired Jerome Ramatlhakwane, who can play every position in attack, on a loan agreement and Chiefs failure to retain him cut them deep. They have, against all odds, lured Dirang Moloi to strengthen their midfield, and brought in Noah Maposa to offer serious competition for both Mwampule Masule and Michael Pepukani.
Rollers are pleased with this business considering that they are entering the preliminary stages of the CAF competitions against South Africa’s heavy weight side, Kaizer Chiefs. But the one player Rollers has splurged more money on – though there are questions as to whether they really need him – could be pivotal in their charge.
Tshepo Motlhabankwe signed in January and there are reports that he could have joined the blue team some seasons back, only for Chiefs to tighten the relations. While Rollers remain confident about the arrival of ‘Talk-Talk – there is word that there was no need to rush the deal – as one of the most expensive signing in the club’s history, how Motlhabankwe fares will be intriguing. Of the four games played thus far, Rollers has won one, and lost the other three.
The player who is on the wrong side of 30 was bought to play alongside Oscar Ncenga in central defence. Leutwetse Tshireletso was an important factor during Rollers’ title-winning run-in but his pace and injury is suspect and he is also ageing – and after a somewhat arduous campaign playing in Zebras games – he is past his best.
The concern with Motlhabankwe is how he is settling in at Township Rollers. The former Zebras left back’s temperament will be tested and questions about his sustenance are emerging particularly after Chiefs game.
Also, there is doubt whether he will ride into Rollers on a wave of enthusiasm, having previously publicly expressed a preference for Chiefs, as well as continually prevaricating over the transfer. But to some observers, it is a non starter given the mouth watering salaries at Mapalastina.
The curious case of Kobamelo Kebaikanye popularly known as ‘Swere’ appears to have been solved, though maybe only for the time being. The rumblings of discontent from the youngster feel like they could flare up again at any moment after reportedly missing training complaining about his low monthly salary.
While Dirang Moloi has been signed on a loan deal for half of the season, he is 30 and is no straight replacement for the dynamic Segolame Boy. The former Chiefs player played his first game against BDF XI and without doubt, rustiness was his main undoing.
Regarding his future, Rollers assistant coach, Zacharia Mudzadzi says: “He knows we have a very good team, we have a lot of players in his position. He is one player more. We have a lot of games particularly coupled with CAF ones, so he is very important for our team.”
Beyond these issues, though, Rollers was expected to enter the second round in serene and highly confident mood. Madinda added a first title in three years of trying and Mascom Top 8 cup dream is still within reach. However with this, comes greater expectation and Madinda will soon be fielding questions about whether not winning the league this term will constitute a failure.
A squad featuring the star turns of Lawrence Majawa, Sekhana Koko, Oscar Ncenga, Maano Ditshupo, Motsholetsi Sikele, Segolame Boy, Jerome Louis and who are backed up by Dirang Moloi, Gofaone Tiro, Thato Bolweleng, Jerome Ramatlhwakwane, and Manqoba Ngwenya should be dominant at all costs.
Rollers have a great chance of emulating what Chiefs did two previous seasons of winning a consecutive Premier League titled. If Ndlovu’s band can finish above the Kgatleng giants side, they should do so. Premier league records show that at week 19 (same stage at this one), on their way to winning the 2013-14 season, Rollers had collected 41 points winning 12 matches. It reflects that, they had lost 2 games while 5 of the 19 games ended with a draw. They scored 30 goals while conceding only 9.
This time around, the Blues record either tilt down a bit or shows a slight improvement. They now sit second on the spot with 40 points. They have won 12 games, same as last season after 19 games. They have lost 3 games and went on to draw 4.
However, they have improved on their scoring prowess. This time around they have found the back of the net 42 times – a record of 12 more goals compared to the last season. This scoring ability is nonetheless betrayed by their defending acumen as 16 goals have been scored against them compared to 9 of the previous round after 19 games.
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.
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.
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.