Gaborone United has officially appointed a new coach in Innocent Morapedi. But having coached so many moons ago, his philosophy remains unknown as the club enters the new season in need of fine-tuning rather than a tactical overhaul. Staff writer MOSIMANEGAPE TSHOSWANE assesses whether the Nikholas Zakhem project will take off without a hitch.
In many people’s views, GU’s preparations and robust recruitment during this transfer window is the epiphany for those who will ordinarily doubt the brilliance of one of the arguably best football side ever.
Since beating traditional rivals; Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers in the 2008/09 season, the club has found it an uphill battle in replicating that the success. The return of Nikholas Zakhem as the club’s supremo and this season’s new signings are bring hope to the Moyagolee faithful.
The long suffering GU community appears to have suddenly found a renewed optimism of returning to their glory days, after watching helplessly for many seasons as arch-rivals Township Rollers snatched the title from their grasp.
In 2012, the club roped in one of the most decorated gaffers on home soil, Major David Bright — a highly renowned tactician whose first job was to clean up the mess left by former coaches. By the time he vacated the post — after a one season spell — he seemed to have done exactly that, reminding domestic football that he is a pragmatic man whose football ideologies have been appealing even to the purists.
Bright won the 2013 Mascom Top 8 cup and secured qualification for the CAF confederation. After Bright, Rahman Gumbo was approached to rescue a dying season but the GU ship remained stagnant. Gumbo’s departure was followed by the return of Philemon Makhwengwe. It was his second home coming after bout of Coca-Cola cup success in 2012. However, his second coming was without success.
There is however a deep rooted scepticism that GU is in want of a coach the calibre of Morapedi, who is anticipated to be the care-taker of a squad that was marred in their last season. Pontsho Moloi, who was in charge on interim basis, instilled faith in young players so much so that when the season prematurely ended because of the coronavirus in March 2020, GU was in fourth position and in contention for league title.
But from a distance, Moloi looks to have somehow transformed previous terms’ failures into a pot of gold with the team rising to every occasion presented to them. For Morapedi, this would represent success and the soft spoken mentor is aware even this will be difficult.
However, GU players are said to be lining-up to claim their first ever premiership title in 11 seasons. The new coach is somehow cagey. Morapedi would never say it publicly but everybody is playing for the league, it will be too early to say they are right on course with his appointment.
But can it happen? The jury is still out until the end of the campaign as the executive committee, inclusive of GU chief financier, Nicholas Zakhem finished the quest to recruit new players. The Gaborone based outfit will however have to see-off the trio of Jwaneng Galaxy, Township Rollers and Orapa United to return to golden days.
GU’s wrecking ball has however arrived when they failed to win the heart of former talented winger Kabelo Seakanyeng. He has gone to play football in Morocco where offers were reportedly better. Deadly striker, Kapamba has been de-registered. He was instrumental in the club’s resurgence last season.
Beyond dispute is GU’s mantle as a contender and their reaction to both Seakanyeng and Kapamba‘s exit. For all considered factors the former players were the country-class inspiration behind the club’s last strongest title challenge of the Premier League era. The blow however prompted a swift and considered response.
The management seems to have identified several weak spots in the squad. They also pinpointed some problems that undermined their thrilling title challenge last season and have addressed them. GU spokesperson Romeo Benjamin agrees; “The team is well oiled to win some championships.” He added, “All our players are ready for selection to compete, coaches are spoilt for choice.” The team has brought into their fold new recruits; Thatayaone Ramatlapeng, Mothusi Johnson, Karabo Phiri and hard tackling defender Thato Kebue.
Much therefore now depends on the skipper, Alphoso Modisaotsile and the awareness of the strikers in front of him. The continued upward trajectory of Obonye Maome and the stability of new signee, Ramatlapeng can bring what will surely determine the success of the team. Up front, the club lacks absolutely nothing. They have Kekaetswe Moloi – a proven goal scorer and veteran attacker Joel Mogorosi.
However, GU is now criticised for adopting a robust move when building for silverware. In search of glory and countrywide appeal, just like Rollers and Center Chiefs used to do, the team is castigated for paying little attention to their youth academy and adopting an almost mercenary belief that success literally has a price.
The negotiations involving Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) over elite league sponsorship have suffered a setback as the local brewer this week took what it termed a ‘difficult’ decision to shut down operations.
This effectively means that football sponsorship is back in its dark corner as all efforts to go back to the field take another nasty twist in the midst of ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is regrettable that this latest total ban on alcohol sales has resulted in the suspension of KBL operations, which will remain in place for as long as the alcohol ban persists. KBL continues its efforts to engage government on this critical issue, which is having an enormous impact on the industry and its extensive value chain,” the company explained.
Although not proudly maintained at Lekidi Football Centre, the company is said to have abandoned talks on explanations revolving around ‘lack of funds.’In the initial agreement, sources say that it was settled that KBL would sponsor the Botswana Football League at a tune of P30million for a period of three years.
It is maintained that the deal was to be relooked and redefined to fit the sponsorship modalities of today’s game.Highly placed sources speaking with this publication however state that BFA is assisting BFL to cajole other companies to come on board as football is about to return to the field.
Top of the list is ABSA Bank who have remained afloat despite the impacts of the virus. The bank is said to be committed to football but sources say it will take a considerable amount of persuasion to see the bank increasing sponsorship.
KBL, in the first phase, were willing to commit without much difficulties but after the storm of COVID-19, the company was to take a back seat and played a waiting game. They reasoned that the continuous lockdown the country has gone under has left them with little income than expected.
But according to sources, KBL is still expressing pleasure to engage with the association again and will further illustrate their willingness to come on board as soon as the corona virus situation subsides.It is said KBL has requested further information regarding sponsorship value from the association and once satisfied, negotiations will resume.
However, some administrators within the National Executive Committee believe KBL’s parting message does not inspire confidence. “KBL‘s phase is over, they gave us hope but it is difficult to keep track of them, COVID-19 has affected every plan,” one member shared.
At the close last season, way before the corona virus impacted the country negatively; BFA revealed that it had long compiled its situation analysis of sponsorship value for the local game. It was understood that the property that is the Premier League could be purchased at a value P 15 million over 43 premier league games.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) President, Maclean Letshwiti.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) is engaged in protracted talks to stage a mini-league as lee-way to ascend into a proper football season by August this year.
The idea is to keep players fit and all football structures functioning as time pressure mounts.Informants say the idea is discussed at the competition office and will soon be forwarded to the National Executive Committee (NEC) for further deliberations.
This therefore means that all leagues across the country will be played for only one round until August where a new full football season will resume. Football has never returned to the field for almost 10 months now due to the corona virus.
The situation on the ground looks gloomy as COVID-19 cases continue to rise with each passing day. Football clubs are also feeling the pinch with Sua Flamingos becoming the latest victims. The club has been forced to suspend operations as players and members of the technical team test positive for the deadly virus.
While playing a mini-league is a last resort, it is mentioned that no team will be promoted or relegated after the completion of the games.Sources say it is better than folding arms when teams are continuing to pay players without kicking the ball.
The idea of the mini-league therefore means that there will be no prize money but teams will likely survive with grants from identifiable sponsors. Already, the Botswana Football League (BFL) has secured a P 5 million television deal for over three years.
The BFL think tanks contemplate to augment the television deal with sponsorship grants from ABSA bank. According to information, this will keep the league and its secretariat running until everything gets back to normalcy.
“It is true we are thinking to stage a mini league looking at what we have but this is still an infant idea, we are discussing and we will engage NEC going forward,” a member of the association shared.BFA leadership finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place as the motion to kick start the league in February was shot down by the assembly in October of last year.
The movers of the motion argued that high temperatures usually recorded in the South of Sahara desert negatively affects player performance and their overall health conditions. However, there were intentions to commence the league at the earliest possible time but the task force together with the Ministry of Sport wanted players to be tested and football fields be fumigated regularly to avoid spreading the virus.
Early this week, the BFL leadership engaged the Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB) to give an update on how football will return. However, this publication cannot adequately establish the detailed plan of the league.
Boteti based side, Orapa United were quick to snatch back Zebras left-back, Lesenya Ramoraka, tying him with a two-year deal after he was released this week by TS Galaxy.
The 26 year-old defender left The Ostriches in 2018 to join Highlands Park who later sold their status last year to renowned football agent Tim Sukazi of TS Galaxy. Ramoraka’s contract was to end this year July.
At the time of the sale, the team then opted not to register him for another season hoping to register him in the January transfer but his injury kept him out for longer than anticipated, forcing TS Galaxy to release him as he was free to start to negotiate with any team that may be interested in him.
“We have signed Ramoraka after assessing his injury and he is in Orapa as we speak doing his rehab.The injury is not bad and we expect him to resume light training anytime from mid- February,” said Kabo William, the club spokesperson.
Ramoraka left an impressive mark at Highlands Park where he played 29 games in all competitions and netting only once. Lee, as he is known in football circles, is one of the most trusted left backs in the country and has been a vital part of the Zebras with his absence felt at the national team.
“The team had wanted to keep him but they were just concerned that his injury was taking long to heal and they opted to release him as you cannot have a player out for too long more especially who is a foreigner,” said a source.
“He had survived the changes at the team and you have to also note that the coach who brought him, Owen Da Gama also just joined TS Galaxy and he is one of the players that he trusted and used so it is not a matter of performance but they couldn’t afford to have him on the side-lines for too long.”
Orapa United have also announced the signing of other players that include; Thabiso Boti formerly with Notwane, Kutlo Kolagano from City Eagles, Galagwe Moyana who was released by Township Rollers, Kagisano Mungu from TAFIC and the team promoted Phemelo Pushudi from their development side.
The Ostriches have released goalkeeper Bophelo Kealeboga who has signed a 2 year deal with Sua Flamingos, Mothusi Johnson who retraced his steps back to Gaborone United, Baboloki Makhura and Abdullah Hamisi.