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Rollers, Somerset at loggerheads

Gobuiwang

Township Rollers has reached a dead end on its awe-inspiring attempt to re- register a company meant to run and administer the affairs of the club. In fact, the club buoyed by the recent transformation redress by one Ashford Mamelodi, is eager to fully turn professional.

However, they are faced with a plethora of questions where one shareholder appears to have the keys to the doors which Rollers want to enter. The club management is reported to have requested to meet Somerset Gobuiwang to discuss and map the way forward. Somerset was expelled roughly 6 years ago from the company he alleged found to run the club.

It is indicated that Somerset formed a company called Township Holding (PTY) Ltd, where his shareholding stake is 40 percent. Jagdish Shah was also given 40 percent shares but as fate would have it, Shah ended up being the sole Director of the company with Somerset unceremoniously receiving the boot.

The sacking of Somerset has now opened a can of worms. It is coming to the fore that the now owner of Molepolole City Stars club was not properly consulted. In fact, it should have never happened that the Director be fired without taking into account his stake in the company.

Rollers allegedly tried to register another company but it proved to be a fruitless exercise as Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) pointed the club to the previous one. Rollers Chairman, Walter Kgabung together with the club media liaison Phempheretlhe Pheto refused to comment on the matter. Kgabung referred this publication to Pheto while Pheto himself took us back to Kgabung.

Somerset also could not be drawn into discussing the matter, only saying the main issues are with Rollers’ hierarchy. In September 2017, the Mma Masire west based club moved forward to initiate changes in the constitution. The Society has managed to redefine the constitution and add a new clause that ultimately protects the interest of investors and that of the Society.

Clause 22.4 has been added that, ‘‘the club shall adopt a model of sustainability and enable itself to operate without pitfalls.’’ Rollers has also leased the club to Shah for a period of 10 years. Under this model, the business tycoon will be at liberty to inject finances in the club coffers while the Society rents out the team’s properties.

Sources continue to mention that clause 11.4 has also been shaped to; ‘‘give executive committee powers to find an entity or company that can run and administer the affairs of the club.’’

The teams’ developmental path

During the colonial era (Bechuanaland Protectorate) was governed by the British, primarily from the administrative centre of Mafikeng, South Africa. With independence looming in the 1960s, a new capital had to spring up within the confines of Botswana’s borders and Gaborone was selected.

The government’s Public Works Department (PWD) workers, initially based at Lobatse, the transitional administrative centre, founded a football club. What had started as a social football team in 1961, -‘Mighty Tigers’- came to be organized into a football society in Gaborone in 1965, termed ‘Township Rollers Football Club.’

The PWD workers had been charged with building internal roads in Gaborone, then a small town, a ‘Township,’ and in building the roads, the workers used compacting equipment termed ‘Rollers.’
The Township Rollers logo adopted had an outlying design of a map of the early Gaborone roads the club founders built; Queens, Khama Crescent, Botswana Road, Independence Avenue, Kaunda Road, South Ring Road; and the ‘Rollers’ compacting equipment was depicted twice inside the logo, as well as a football and a soccer boot below them.
jackdish shah
The club name, nickname ‘Tse Tala’ (The Blues) and motto ‘Popa Popa ea ipopa’ completed the logo. This original logo, used between 1965 and 2010 is now located at the centre of rebranded logo used over the past 5 years.

Club founders, the likes of Francis van Vuuren, worked with administrators like Mokhutshwane Sekgoma in building a great team around players like Clement ‘Captain Muller’ Muthelesi, Morwalela ‘Pro’ Seema, Mchuu ‘City’ Manyelela and Steering Matsila in the 1970s.

Player-coach Chibazo Kande led Rollers to the national league title in 1979 and 1980, then four titles in a row (1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985, still a national record), with players like Boyo Oris Radipotsane and Persia Diago. After the iconic Chibazo Kande passed away in a car accident, coach Ezekiel Mpofu added another title in 1987. Under administrators like Justice Baleseng Baleseng, Noel Liau and Kgomotso Mogapi, Rollers went further to win more trophies, including the 1995 league title.

But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Rollers fortunes plummeted. A disturbing trend had begun in the 1980s when BDF XI signed Popa stars including Sehularo ‘The Horse’ Pelekekae and Cocorico Mnese.

Resourced by the State, institutional sides like BDF XI, Mogoditshane Fighters (then an army side that won the league three times in a row under Major David Bright) and Police XI were starting to dominate Botswana club football.

The traditional giants, Township Rollers and Gaborone United were societies who were often cash-strapped and could not offer players permanent jobs like the institutional sides. Rollers and city rivals GU were both relegated in the early 2000s; a similar fate had befallen Mochudi Centre Chiefs in the mid 1990’s.

Rollers, founded as a football society, decided to have new arrangements where a holding company could nominate an investor to work with the society leadership in running the club. The first such Managing Director was Puma Mathware, under whose stewardship Rollers won the First Division in their only season outside the top flight. The ‘Blues’ proceeded to win double- the Super League (now the Premier League) and Coca Cola Cup- in the first season after promotion, 2004-5.

In 2006 the club was handed over to a new Managing Director, Somerset Gobuiwang. Working with the society executive led by the then Chairman David Spencer Mmui, Gobuiwang invested in the team and helped the ‘Blues’ return to their glory days. The club won the 2010 and 2011 league titles, and further silverware including the 2010 Coca Cola Cup and 2012 inaugural Mascom Top 8.

For the first time in Botswana football, a million Pula prize money was available, and match day ticket prices had gone up. Club merchandise also went on sale. This period also saw Rollers having major transfer of players- Moemedi ‘Jomo’ Moatlhaping, Phenyo Mongala, Boitumelo Mafoko, Terrence Mandaza, Mogakolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele, and Kabelo Dambe, Mosha Gaolaolwe and Simisane Mathumo- to South African PSL clubs.

Sport

City turns to BFA tribunal over relegation

23rd November 2021
Premier league players

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.

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Sport

Is it time to take Piro serious?

23rd November 2021
GU

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.

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Sport

GU, Rollers – early favorites

16th November 2021
Rollers & GU

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.

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