With the Botswana Premier League (BPL) reaching the halfway mark this weekend; four teams have emerged as relegation candidates. It is with certainty that at least two of the four will drop to the First Division by the end of this season. KETUMILE RAMATITI explores the reasons behind the dismal showing of the unlucky four.
It has been a norm in local football that those teams that gain promotion usually retrace their steps back to the dusty divisions when the season ends; this has been linked to tight or nonexistent budgets. However, this past season odds were defied with the likes of Orapa United, FC Satmos and Police XI proving that they are here to compete, which ultimately saw Satmos and Police feature in the Mascom Top 8.
Can the new boys emulate what their brothers did last season? The answer is certainly no, the new comers, Letlapeng and BR Highlanders future in the be-MOBILE Premier League seem to be in jeopardy together with perennial strugglers Notwane and former league champions Ecco City Greens. Records reveal that for a team to be safe from the relegation it should have accumulated 35 points or more, Uniao Flamingo Santos was dropped after collecting only 30 points last season.
LETLAPENG IS JUST NOT PREPARED Ramotswa based Letlapeng who started the league like a blossoming flower walloping Orapa United 2-0 has wilted off, registering losses every weekend. The team’s preparedness for top flight football has always been in question after gaining promotion to the premier league amid controversy as the second placed Black Forest appealed a matter in which they contended that ‘Rock of ages’ fielded a defaulter in their Division encounter.
This took away the concentration of the team from premier league and by the time the case was over, the league was calling. By then they haven’t made any notable signings to bolster their relatively inexperienced side, things were made miserable when they lost the services of four key players including prolific goal scorer Sadat Sinare and Tshiamo Moreetsi.
Letlapeng however, was able to rope in former BMC defender Patrick Mathaba, Emmanuel Machinya, Thabang Dira and Michael Pillar to strengthen their side, the quartet cannot offer that much as the team is currently languishing at the bottom of the league table with only eight points.
The team has so far conceded a whopping 26 goals while scoring only 16, their defense marshaled by Mathaba and Mompoloki Rangwang is always a suspect more especially that their goalkeeper Tumiso Mashakola is new to the stage. The team has also parted ways with the mentor who stirred them to premier league elevation Thaloba Nthaga, and brought on board Nelson Olebile to take charge, this could have also contributed to their poor showing.
The team’s top goal scorer Koketso ‘Shikabala’ Mokgantutswane has netted three goals; this has prompted them to look for an experienced striker in the coming transfer window in January.
According to the club Chairman Sidney Magagane, they will be active in the market as they are also looking for an experienced defensive and attacking midfielder in a bid to bring stability in the team and to guide the youngsters. However, the team was able to convince Seabelo Express and Temo holdings to help them financially at the beginning of the season and thus far despite being newcomers the team has handled players’ welfare issues well. Chance of survival: 3/10
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE FOR BR HIGHLANDERS? Another side that is possibly left with only 15 games in the top flight football is BR Highlanders. They are not totally new to this level of football as they featured in the 2012/13 season after entering through the backdoor following the infamous Police XI, Security Systems and BFA debacle.
The team has made a return to the be-MOBILE premier league. Just like their peers, Letlapeng, the Mahalapye side have parted ways with their former gaffer, Paul Moyo and replaced him with his former assistant Tebogo Mokute. The team chairman, Lucky Buisanyang said ever since the sacking of Moyo the results are now coming to the team.
Stimela as they are affectionately called, shocked many when they beat Nico United before downing championship chasers BMC something which gave them hope that ‘everything is possible’.
They are currently sitting precariously on position 14 with 11 points. It is the most conceding team in the league after collecting 32 balls from the back of the net, they have a negative 19, and they scored only 13 goals, an unsatisfying number of goals for a team that is new. The team’s top goal scorer, Lucky Vundla has only scored five goals.
Chairman, Buisanyang said they will look for a striker in the coming window because their main undoing is the frontline. In terms of finances the team is not struggling that much despite playing their home games in Serowe. Botswana Railways provides transport for them; they only spend P4, 500 for their camps. Chance of survival: 4/10
ECCO CITY GREES EMBARASSING FTOWN Francistown’s only remaining premier League side could kiss the premier league goodbye. The 2006/07 league champions, Ecco City Greens are currently embarrassing the second city citizens week in and week out. Ever since they were dumped by BMC, the parastatal butcher, life has never been easy for Mamoja diskie as they endured a mass exodus of players before the commencement of this season. The players went for greener pastures.
Zecco Makafiri, Emmanuel Nlu, Gosaitse Manuel, Tendai Nyamuzi, Keabetswe Jenamiso are some of notable players that left the Francistown side. Currently the team’s core players are students and the reason why results are not coming is because they usually busy engaged with their academic work and some football pundits have attributed the current Ecco resurrection to the youngsters’ availability owing to school recess.
The team is banking on the experience of Malepa Bolelang to turn their fortunes around. They have also parted ways with their gaffer Aupa Kowa. They have given the reigns to Junior Molapi the younger brother of their former mentor Atshele Molapi. The team is sitting uncomfortably in position 15, after accumulating nine points from 14 outings; Ecco’s defence is also cited as a cause for concern as they have let in 28 goals.
Their frontline is not that bad as both Bolelang and Kebaatho Omaatla have scored four goals apiece, but Mamoja can always survive the chop provided they utilize the upcoming window. But some pundits wonder if they have the muscle to bring players they want. In the past Ecco spokesperson promised that they will partner with certain investors in Francistown. But to this day they are still cooking something! Maybe Ecco will be refurbished side next year. Chance of survival: 5/10
NOTWANE: PERENNIAL STRUGGLERS The perennial strugglers, Notwane could also make history by playing in the unfashionable lower division next season for the first time since its formation 59 years ago. The past three seasons have been ugly ones for the side. They depend mostly on rejects from other teams and youngsters from their development structures; this has not been fruitful in the past as the team has emulated what Extension Gunners used to do, without success.
Notwane has come up with a Metropolitan Insurance initiative to try to raise funds for the team but surprisingly the team supporters have rejected the idea which makes their financial life very wobbly. Understandably, Sechaba is in position 11 with only 12 points; the team is the third highest conceding in the league after letting in 26 goals and scoring 17. Their top goal scorer Emmanuel Masisi has scored three goals, a sign that the striking department is also poor.
To make matters worse the team’s executive committee is said to have been torn apart after rise of club chairman, Arnold Somolekae to chair the Premier League board which has not been given blessings by other committee members. This again is expected to push the team further down the log as administrative issues always impact negatively on team performance.
Fortunately the team will play only one game before the Christmas break and expectations are that the team will be a rejuvenated side next year. Chance of survival: 5/10
Meanwhile Motlakase Power Dynamos is also not safe from the relegation as they rooted in position 12 with 12 points. But they are not new at this dog fight.
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.
Hard tackling midfielder, Lebogang Ditsele has completed a move from Botswana Premier League (BPL) champions, Jwaneng Galaxy, to Gaborone United in a reported lucrative two-year deal, WeekendSport can confirm.
The Reds have finally made their move for their long-time target and the enterprising midfielder is said to be happy to have completed the transfer after a heavy fall out with Galaxy management.
He wants to play football that pays, something which Galaxy cannot offer and the allure of GU was certainly too much for Ditsele to turn a blind eye.
The team as led and directed by construction magnate, Nicholas Zakhem- who is reported to have given ‘CCTV’ a mouth-watering P30 000 per month plus winning bonuses contract in demonstration of their seriousness to win silverware.
Sometime in March, the industrious player gave Galaxy an ultimatum-to either improve his contract benefits or let him go-after a decision was taken to offer the whole team pay cuts amid the devastating effects of the corona virus pandemic.
Galaxy had arrived at a conclusion of giving each player P 3000 until a time football returns to the field with moneyed sponsorships.
“We are proud to have signed him because he will add quality to our squad once football returns. Always a quality player and like him and he is now available, you don’t say there is no football, you tie him down before other clubs beat you to his signature,” said club Director, Nicholas Zakhem.
It is believed that Ditsele has always recognized GU as one of the country’s leading clubs, capable of competing for the grandest prizes. Ditsele was at Gilport Lions before he was snatched up by Galaxy and now GU. His moves come as no surprise as his dream has always been to play for high paying clubs.
No doubt, Ditsele has enjoyed his years at Galaxy, where he is feted by the supporters, but the lad has always felt that the time is right to move on. Ditsele leaves having a year left on his contract.
It is impossible to dispute the value and service that he has given to the club, with the last season being his best, winning the premiership title.
Once Galaxy has sent him to overseas club at Highlands Park but returned home after a short stint.
However, the fan favourite, who has had an on and off relationship with the national team, The Zebras, was never going to be held by the terms of his contract.
Despite encountering an injury scare ahead of the IAAF Diamond League circuit this week, Nijel Amos’ Olympic dream is still on track and he remains ever capable to stun the world by replicating his famous feat at the 2012 Olympic Games.
This was confirmed by his coaches and doctors after the Botswana star suffered a minor calf injury that forced him out of the weekend race. The multiple conqueror of 800m races is expected back on the track on June 9th to shake off this injury scare and face the possibilities of winning another Olympic medal. This likelihood only has one month to go!
Amos remains the only Motswana athlete to ever win a medal at the Olympic Games, a rare but magnificent accomplishment that still lingers in the memory of Botswana sport fraternity. At the time, he was only 18 years and strange enough, that silver medal felt like Gold for many.
His anticipated presence at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is on course to renew the long standing rivalry between him and the Kenyan 800m world record holder, David Rudisha. This is the same Kenyan competitor who won Gold when Botswana’s Amos came second in a race that would become the toast of the competitions at the London Olympics.
However, two years later, at 2014 Commonwealth Games, Amos dethroned Rudisha in another breath-taking race that confirmed and sparked the ongoing thrilling competitiveness — filled with pleasure, pain and sporting hatred- between the two.
When Amos was beaten in London, he never cared who won the race but was ecstatic to have finished at the podium, writing his name into Olympic Game folklore.
But in Glasgow, for Rudisha, defeat seemed not to have diminished his hopes. After the finish, when the lacerations were sharpest and the wound deepest, Rudisha was pictured hugging Nijel Amos, and congratulating him for a job well done.
Then, Amos was just 20 years, oozing with confidence. The shy looking Rudisha wrapped a Kenyan flag around his back and went on a lap of honour to celebrate his silver medal.
If there was disappointment Rudisha masked it with the skill of an actor. He smiled and waved as he received a standing ovation. “Amos is a tough competitor and he was very good,” Rudisha once admitted, stating matters of sporting facts that would follow between the two runners. Win. Lose. Win. Lose.
But then, there have been echoes of a swollen Muhammad Ali after his defeat to Joe Frazier, winking at the hundreds of fans who had converged at his hotel, determined to show light on his darkest day. The bruises on that day were to Rudisha’s record, not his face. Like Ali, he promised to be back.
But that night was about Amos. A callow 18-year-old who finished second to Rudisha at London 2012 sharpened his confidence, hardened by beating his idol twice on the Diamond League circuit, grew with each passing year.
However, both athletes began to suffer sporting injuries of their own, they lost the edge they were well-known for and it is why at the 2016 Olympic Games, the bookmakers were upset when they could not meet at the final. It was Amos who faltered in the heats and although Rudisha became the first Kenyan to retain an Olympic title, it was not as scintillating as it was in 2012.
Now with a month to go, Amos is living in prayer, hoping he stays free from injuries. He is looking forward to become the star again. He has won everything at the diamond league and broke every national record, but his eyes are still fixed on the ultimate prize- the Gold medal at the international stage, with or without David Rudisha.