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Is Rollers-Gunners still a blockbuster affair?

The 2021-22 football season has finally arrived. It does not come at a better time than this one after two years of no action.  With the tune changing around football circles, a game between Township Rollers and Extension Gunners will never go unnoticed in the calendar of Botswana football.

The two teams, which enjoy the largest following in Botswana, are billed to headline the start of the season. The fixture, however, comes after almost two years without playing football, and it is still unknown if they still carry the same significance and meaning in the future of Botswana football. With many followers ready to quench their football thirst, all eyes, however, will be on rather what happens than who wins the match.

Forget about the comparison that continuously stirs followers` minds about which player is better than the other. While Rollers speedy winger Edwin Moalosi and Extension Gunner’s pacey recruit, Lesego Lubinda, are likely to determine the game’s outcome, the instrumental men happen to be in the midst of the park. The two teams are about to embark on a story where Rollers have already been labelled as potential league champions because of their massive recruitment. At the same time, Gunners are relegation candidates following a lacklustre performance in the transfer market.

The Peleng outfit started preparation very late, with speculations of an absent chairman not inspiring confidence. The question is whether the fixture between the two sides is as prominent as it used to be? The fixture had the duo of former Rollers man Lawrence Majawa and Captain Maano Ditshupo ruling the midfield whenever Kenny Pilatwe and Lesego Molemogi faced them. Yet, there is striking mutual respect between them and a similarity that, for all the focus on goalscorers, may make them the central actors in the drama expected to unfold next weekend at the National Stadium.

Many new faces have come out. Rollers still have Ditshupo, Segolame Boy and Lemponye Tshireletso, while Gunners will enter the field with recruits but have veteran player Dirang Moloi in their mix. These are the players who used to face each other in the heart of midfield, the men entrusted with bringing an identity to their teams, whose job it is not just to play better; and make others play well.

Rollers Captain Maano Ditshupo is likely to continue his dominance to bring out the team’s ideologue — bright, opinionated and analytical, the man; former Rollers head coach Nicola Kavazovic once said of him: “I cannot imagine Popa without him.” On the other side, Gunners’ Moloi is the man who will do the bidding on the pitch for Gunners – intelligent, communicative, quietly authoritative, bringing calm to a team that plays at breakneck speed.

Both groups of midfielders from these teams are undoubtedly natural talents: insightful and passionate about the game, awe at the passion it provokes and assured how it can be played. They are teammates and former fellow travellers for the Zebras.  During the past season, Rollers coaches said Segolame Boy, another instrumental midfielder, was his best player of the campaign. And Gunners coaches, on the other hand, have merely avoided rotations on, but when big games come, it is Moloi he seeks to protect first.

For Maano and Rollers, it is a matter of beginning a new formula in a new revolution in his role. As he embraced it, he had not failed it. Moloi might seem fatigued, but his dangerous moves on the last third of Rollers might still haunt the Gaborone West giants. Boy will be key in orchestrating final passes to the top man, but even if he is not there, Lemponye Tshireletso can equally put up with the role. The question then is whose role will prosper.

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Cooper, Galaxy deal explained 

7th December 2021
Cooper

This week, the 2019/2020 league champions, Jwaneng Galaxy, announced the signing of former Lusaka Dynamos midfielder Mothusi Cooper for a period of six months.

Cooper, a 23-year-old versatile midfielder, terminated his contract with Lusaka Dynamos a few months ago due to unpaid salaries and signing-on fees. Cooper had joined the Zambian giants from Township Rollers.

In an interview with this publication this week, Tankiso Morake, Galaxy Public Relations Officer (PRO), said their head coach, Morena Ramoreboli, recommended the club to bolster their midfield.

“We felt it was necessary for us as Galaxy to increase our depth in the midfield; fortunately, Cooper was available since he has been declared a free agent,” Morake alluded.

“It is an advantage for us as Galaxy to sign a player of Cooper calibre, though we are not saying we don’t have good players. We just wanted to give the coach what he wants and also add more depth to our squad,” he said.

“It will grant coach more quality players since we are playing the CAF Championship group stage, the league games and also the Orange FA Cup.”

According to Morake, the deal favours both the player and his agent, as it will give the 23-year-old the opportunity to attract interest abroad due to participation in the CAF Championship group stages.

When contacted for comment, Bakang Moipone, who is the player’s agent, said: “The intention was never to go for a local move, but the most unfortunate thing is that as much as we had offers from other teams in Zambia, South Africa, and North Africa and also trying to poach something from Europe, it is challenging to find a foreign player slot during the January transfer window.”

Furthermore, Moipone revealed that the clubs which were interested in his services did not have the foreign slot available to register the versatile midfielder.

“We concluded by saying the player cannot wait until June without having a club; hence we opted for a local move for six months knowing that we will be able to get a club during the winter transfer window,” the player agent noted.

“We received several offers from local teams such as Rollers, Gaborone United, Orapa United and Galaxy, and it was him (Cooper) who chose Galaxy since they have qualified for the CAF Championship group stage as he believes it will give him international exposure and also create more options for him for an oversea move.”

Moipone highlighted that the move to Galaxy was not monetary. The ultimate reason was for the player to gain match fitness while anticipating moving abroad in June to further his professional career.

Meanwhile, it is reported that the former senior national team head coach Adel Amrouche is had secured a lucrative deal for troubled Zebras star Cooper.

The player, recently on Lusaka Dynamos books, is anticipated to move abroad once the 2021/2021 season ends.

The club’s name remains unknown, but sources speculate that the player will land in a team based in Belgium.

Cooper will be the third player whose overseas move is masterminded by Amrouche after secured deals for Kabelo Seakanayeng and Tumisang Orebonye to Olympique Khouribga, a club based in Morocco.

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Sport

F/town Chess tourney returns with improved prizes

7th December 2021
Chess

Despite the disruptions of the COVID-19 scourge to the chess fraternity calendar of events, the First Capital Bank Festive Chess Showdown tournament returns this year with improved prizes.

The tournament, which started in 2019 with a sponsorship of P22 000, will proceed with this year’s an increased backing from P42 000 to P50 000. The adjustment prompted the organizers to increase the prizes across sections. Scheduled to take place in Francistown from the 11th-13thof December, the tournament has seen a steadfast growth in sponsorship and attracting high profile players during the two years.

According to the event organizer Thapelo Molefe, the total sponsorship amounts to P49 945, a gesture that allowed them to increase prizes by 14%. The prestige section, which generally attracts highly rated players, has a top prize of P4200, an increase from P3600, while the open section got a P1000 increase to P3000. The ladies section now attracts a prize of P2000 from the previous P1800. However, the Under 18 and development section awards remain unchanged at P1500 and P300.

“The deal is solid and beneficial to both parties so that it won’t stop anytime soon. We have a telepathic understanding with the bank; they have social responsibility at the core of their business. There isn’t much of a difference except the increase in prize monies. Foreign internationals have always graced our events in numbers, and we look forward to having them again in our third installment of this magnificent undertaking,” said Molefe.

The last edition was won by Gaasite Sebetlela and WCM Refilwe Gabatshwarwe in the open and ladies section, respectively, while Monnatsheko Keletshabile emerged the champion in the prestige section.

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Sport

P700k for GU players

7th December 2021
Gu-Players

Morale inside Gaborone United camp is high with the team oozing with confidence and licking their lips to lift the Orange FA trophy, as the team has been assured to share the P700k first prize amongst themselves should they win.

The promise was made by the club Chief financier Nicholas Zachem earlier this year as part of motivating the team following a long spell of football thirst and hunger. The players and the technical team are looking at the big carrot that has been dangled before them and have never looked back.

GU has been marauding other teams, going down for the first time 1-2 against BDF X1. The Innocent Morapedi and Pontsho Moloi mentored side is currently on 2nd position on the league log with 15 points after six games, only a point separate them with log leaders Township Rollers.

The Reds are also in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and are facing stubborn Jwaneng Galaxy in what could be a litmus test for them. Their in-form forward Thatayaone Kgamanyane is expected to lead the attack to eliminate Galaxy and face either Township Rollers or Masitaoka in the finals.

The high flying club has managed five clean sheets this season, with their goalkeeper Goitseone Phoko even voted player of the month.  “It’s a great feeling to have been chosen as player of the month. The award will motivate me to perform to my level best in every game. As much as this award is mine, I would like to thank my teammates who have contributed immensely in ensuring that I keep those clean sheets,” said Phoko after pocketing P1000 cash for his toil.

GU Brand and Marketing Manager, Herbert Letsebe said the club decided to introduce monthly awards to motivate players. “This is a build up to our end of the season awards where will crown player of the season and other individual awards,” he said.

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