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.
The mega transfer of one Thatayaone Ditlhokwe from Township Rollers to South Africa’s SuperSport United has left Gaborone United (GU) desperate for the ‘purchase benefits’ and the latter has consistently phoned Rollers to pay back their share for supposedly grooming the player.
Ditlhokwe, a former GU defender, was sold to SuperSport at an estimated fee of P 2 million late last year. When the sale was negotiated, and it was agreed that GU will receive at least 15% of the sale, sources say.
This therefore means Rollers has to pay GU P 300 000.
According to reliable sources, Rollers is yet to process GU’s benefits because SuperSport United is taking long to complete the transfer fee. However, Jagdish Shah, the financer of Rollers, is said to be ready to pay GU’s dues as soon as the time is right.
In any case, it is said the two clubs are fighting a boardroom brawl. Regarded as the fiercest cross town rivals, GU was incensed to lose Ditlhokwe to Rollers in the first place. The underlying scuffle, to date, is catalysed by misplaced documents and trust that has grown seriously thin between the two clubs.
It is said that GU cannot find the contract between Rollers and SuperSport so as to officially bill their claim. Sources put it that GU had written twice to Rollers asking them to forward a copy of the said contract.
In the first instance, it is said that Rollers cooperated and did as GU requested. However, GU is said to have lost the contract and went back to Rollers for another copy. Rollers according to sources then refused to budge. There are claims that GU is now stuck in one place.
Rollers media liaison Phemperetlhe Pheto said it is difficult to talk about contracts to third parties. He however implored GU to avail the contract for them to claim their fees without doubts.
“I am disturbed to talk about contracts of players to media but bear in mind that we cannot act when GU is failing to submit what they have as a proof,” he said.
When Rollers tried to sign Argentinean born gaffer, Rudolph Zapata, three seasons ago, GU fought tooth and nail to block him from joining the ranks of their number one enemy. They delayed to release his work permits accusing him and Rollers of sinister motives.
To this date, GU is livid that Rollers nearly paralyzed their camp when they recruited striker Tumisang Orebonye, defender Jackson Lesole and the very same Ditlhokwe, to offer them lucrative contracts.
Just a year ago, the fight between the two clubs almost took a nasty turn. It started when GU wrote to the Botswana Football Association (BFA) questioning the coaching credentials of Rollers former coach, Frank Nuttall, together with his assistants, Leutwetse Tshireletso and Zachariah Mudzazi. Then, GU was seen to be shifting posts when consistently asked to rectify the situation involving their coach, Pontsho Moloi. It was found out that Moloi was not fit to coach in the elite level according to the requirements of club licensing.
But as things stand, GU will count on the words of Shah, whom many football administrators label as a ‘man of integrity.’
Ditlhokwe signed a three year deal with SuperSport last year. The 22-year-old helped Rollers to lift the Botswana Premier League trophy in the 2018/19 season and was rewarded with a national team call up.
The Botswana international played an important role for his side in the 2019 COSAFA Cup in South Africa as captain, Ditlhokwe also helped Zebras finish 2nd in the tournament losing to Zambia in the final.
The Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture Development has agreed to refurbish the dilapidated Molepolole Sports Complex.
The development consequently means premier league teams and local clubs will not be able to utilise the facility in the upcoming season.
The stadium with a carrying capacity of 6 600, was earmarked by premier league rookies Masitaoka as home-ground.
The ministry has further revealed that the stadium will need a budget of about 5 million Pula to relay the turf and renovate a water drainage system that has worn out. The contractors are expected to commence work in the not so distant future.
The pitch surface is artificial and was first installed in 2008 at FIFA’s request and the presidency of Philp Makgalemele. In 2010, it was chosen as one of two host stadiums for the COSAFA Under-20 Challenge.
“We have funds to refurbish the Molepolole Stadium for two main projects; the relaying of turf and renovation of water reticulation system. The stadium will therefore be out of bounds when contracted companies begin their works,” the Chairman of Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) confirmed.
The Ministry of sport is further expected to file a communication with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development notifying them to start a monitoring exercise when the renovations begin.
The reconstruction of this stadium and others is however feared to coincide with the long intention of the government to improve sport infrastructure throughout the country.
Earlier this year, the sport ministry has also requested a budget of about P 33 million to renovate and improve the VIP lounge of Francistown Sport Complex, now known as Obed Chilume stadium.
The President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi, said the government continues to improve sporting infrastructure as part of the grassroots sport development programme. He said this in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) two years ago.
This financial year, P50 million was allocated for the construction of 10 community sport facilities or mini stadia, around the country.
“These will be basic sport facilities for youth recreation, and will consist of boundary wall, an artificial turf, soccer pitch and changing rooms with ablution facilities,” he said.
The facilities are earmarked for Tonota, Mmadinare, Bobonong, Tutume, Kasane, Goodhope, Kanye, Rakops, Tsabong and Moshupa.
Enterprising midfielder, Dirang Moloi, is in talks with premier league rookies Masitaoka Football Club about possibilities of joining as a free agent, having last played for troubled Extension Gunners last season.
Moloi, touted as the best midfielder of his generation, is said to be ready to hang his boots but not before playing for Masitaoka, the promising outfit whose administration is now the envy of other premier teams, especially the older ones.
However, it appears that there is a stumbling block as Moloi is requesting for conditions that are beyond the club’s reach. Moloi, with a substantial premier league experience, where player wages are not always guaranteed, wants to partner with the club through his side businesses to make profit.
Sources say Moloi does not desperately yearn for a monthly salary, but wants some benefits as the club makes money through other means.
Operating as a football company, Masitaoka has plenty of sponsors and it is why Moloi wants a share of the profits for each replica jersey the team sells. He also wants the club to partner with his security company to further rake in profits rather than waiting on a meagre salary that is not certain especially during turbulent periods of corona virus. This, according to sources may weigh heavily on Masitaoka’s situation that consequently will collapse the talks.
All the while, it is said Moloi will no longer be a first-choice selection but Neslon Olebile, the team’s head coach, hopes that his personality and experience will serve to inspire the rest of the attacking options, most notably the younger players.
Masitaoka have always sought to have leaders in their squad, players who have won big games and can bolster the collective belief. Their hunger to sign Galabgwe Moyana in the next season is rooted in part, by what he could bring away from the field.
Moloi, some reports say may join partly on probation and eventually sign to play as the season goes on, but not to inspire, as he once declared he is about to quit Botswana football.
The club sources however say that there is no option built into the deal for him to join them with non- football conditions.
Masitaoka are however desperate for Moloi’s services and will want him to bring calmness and stability to a side that has begun to dream big. The Molepolole base outfit is eyeing a spot in the finals of Orange FA Cup. Once football resumes, the club will play against Calendar Stars in the quarter finals.
Moloi has won a handful of trophies and medals during his salad days at Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers.