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.
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.
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.
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.