There is no doubt Township Rollers’ move for Jerome Ramatlhakwane came as a big jolt to the football fraternity, raising questions as to how coach Madinda Ndlovu will shoehorn everyone in, Palestine style.
But the truth of the matter is that the people in charge at Mma-Masire side decided a long time ago that despite the considerable talents of Jerome Louis and Sekhana Koko, their frontline was not dynamic enough for a club of their ambitions.
It was allegedly stated at some stage that Ndlovu was the first person to identify the issue and initially thought Kenanao Kgetholetsile had the directness and penetrative qualities to give the team a more vibrant attacking edge. In fact, there had always been a belief that ‘Flo’ would score goals for fun at Popa given his style of play and physique.
A meeting was arranged and Flo joined Popa from BMC together with Motsholetsi Sikele. However, Ndlovu and his technical team watched Flo so many times after the turn of the year and he proved unconvincing every time. BMC had sold him and Sikele for P120 000 and Ndlovu, with deficiencies in midfield and defence, decided the money was better spent elsewhere as he later sold him back to BMC.
What perhaps comes as a surprise is that Ndlovu and Township Rollers still wanted another forward, even though Segolame Boy signed from Miscellaneous SC was on their books; and it did not need forensic analysis to realise Rollers’ squad was already top-heavy with attackers but conspicuously short in defence.
Yet Rollers acted swiftly and decisively when the ever inspiring connections of Somerset Gobuiwang finally landed Jerome in their camp. Gobuiwang might be despised but he has the art of picking talent and nurturing it. He has struck up a strong rapport with some notable football agents too. And what is followed, by modern standards, is an agreement of uncommon speed that demonstrates, again, Rollers’ determination to spend their way back to the top of the sport.
Where Jerome fits in – or, rather, who drops out – is another matter entirely and it is not being unduly negative to wonder if Rollers have jumbled priorities up, given the imbalance it leaves Ndlovu, with a pick of superstars upfront but a defence that will always encourage opponents.
Rollers and Ndlovu have never been afraid to ditch players who previously considered themselves first-team supreme choices. Ordinarily, Koko’s place would have to be vulnerable. Yet Ndlovu has just given him the captaincy chiefly on the basis that he envisages him (now the most senior player at Popa) being at the battlefront every week.
Jerome Louis is firmly established as one of the coach’s favourites and maybe that means it will be Rollers stand in captain Maano Ditshupo who has to suffer the consequences. Maano could probably be forgiven for wondering where all this leaves him – and let’s not forget how it might affect Manqoba Shakes Ngwenya either.
Few would doubt Shakes has the gifts to rise to the highest levels of his profession in Botswana – and as someone with much ability and self-belief, he must be wondering how the next weeks will pan out for him.
Before anything, Ndlovu, assisted by Teenage Mpote and Zachariah Mudzadzi, must decide whether to stick to their 4-3-1-2 formation (despite its obvious lack of success so far) or switch to a more conventional system, most likely 4-3-3, that might be better suited to his evolving squad.
A front three of Kobamelo, Jerome Louis and newly recruited Ramatlhakwane would be a daunting prospect for even the most accomplished defence and perhaps this is now the point in Koko’s career when he and his coaches have to start giving more thought to him dropping into midfield.
In fact, Ndlovu was convinced it was inevitable at some stage because Koko had lost the burst of pace that made him such a whirlwind of a player when he was younger and Ndlovu would privately admit he should have been emboldened enough to do it more.
There was, however, a feeling among the coaching staff that Koko needed to learn the ropes and was not a natural. More than anything, they were concerned that Koko was not particularly good at short passes, in the way that Maano and Tsotso Ngele would give and go. They knew Koko could play the killer pass. The issue was whether he knew the right moment to look for that pass.
In the meantime, Segolame Boy has joined the club as an upgrade to Gofaone Tiro. The latter is still to return to full fitness, with Shakes Ngwenya in reserve, and there is finally the sense that Rollers have started to fix some of the midfield woes they have neglected too long.
Godfrey Ngele is another one who has frequently tempted followers to believe he can shine consistently at the highest level but has never quite done enough to remove all the lingering question marks. Ngele, when on form, can be a formidable opponent, with that long stride, direct running and skilful feet. Yet his defining moment last season came when injuries chained him before starting to miss clear cut chances. With growing injuries, Godfrey faded.
Maano, one would suspect, might be experiencing some kind of insecurities over the coming months. The same applies to Kobamelo, too. Yet that will always be the way of big clubs and at least Rollers can be certain now that they still appeal to category-A footballers. The “high profile players”, one could call them. It is just a pity for Ndlovu, perhaps, that they all occupy roughly the same positions.
Second assistant coach, Mudzadzi, however, says Jerome Louis can always be a second striker whenever JJ is deployed upfront.
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.