With the epic night clash between Extension Gunners and Mochudi Centre Chiefs taking centre stage this Friday, Gunners’ captain Monageng Thaele believes that a filled-up stadium will go a long way in giving soccer enthusiasts the exciting brand of football known to characterise matches between the two sides.
A few seasons ago in one of their midweek night duels, the black-and-white wear clubs filled up the UB Stadium beyond capacity in a clash that saw several spectators failing to find space inside the stadium and forcing the referees to delay kick-off after some supporters had spilled into the stadium's athletics track.
The teams then shared a staggering P180 000 from the gate takings after all other deductions had been made. It was a spectacle both on and off the pitch with the two sides playing to a 2-all draw and giving soccer enthusiasts a night to remember. A night like that is what Thaele misses, and wants supporters from both sides to come and do the same thing this Friday night. The Gunners’ left winger is particularly worried by the dwindling number of supporters at the match venues as has been happening in recent weeks. In specifically addressing his club’s supporters, Thaele told BG Sports, “Our supporters should know that winning matches is a result of some collective effort; it is not just about the players. They need to come in large numbers to support the club rather than boo the players.” The last time the two sides met was in August last year in the opening fixture of this season, and Thaele has no fond memories of that game which they lost 2-0.
And it is not about their loss: “It was the worst game I ever played - it was lousy and did little to get the best out of us because there were no supporters. It was dull and did not feel like a serious league game,” he said of the game which was played behind closed doors as punishment to Gunners for the rowdy and violent behaviour of their supporters in a previous season game they lost to Gaborone United. He added, “But now there will be supporters and this will be a different ball game. A packed atmosphere always gets the best out of us and we are certain to give Chiefs a run for their money even as they have the best talent in their squad. We have been working hard since January 5 to rectify and improve on our conversion rate. Our supporters are thirsty for victory and we can promise them that – the worst result being a draw.”
The two sides meet on the backdrop of contrasting fortunes with coach Mike Sithole’s Chiefs the more confident of victory given the two sides’ recent history, form and log standings. Chiefs enter the crunch match on the backdrop of three straight December victories against FC Satmos, Gaborone United and Police XI and are placed second on the log with 33 points from 15 matches. Gunners’ trio of December games only produced one point from their two losses against Gaborone United and BDF XI, as well as a draw against Police XI. They are placed sixth with 25 points. As the two teams meet again at the National Stadium, Thaele is talking redemption of pride on the side of Mapantsula. “We started the season on a poor note, and we concluded the end of the first round badly. We aim to restore order at our club and our mission begins with Chiefs. They are skilful and dangerous we know.
“They are patient and comfortable with the ball, and their movement off the ball is what we will be cautious about. In the end however, we should emerge victorious because we are prepared,” he said. Gunners are practically still within the title race, but a loss this Friday will almost kill any prospects of winning it. Yet the Gunners captain is not so much concerned about winning the league. “We want to win every game as it comes, beginning this Friday, the rest will fall into place. Yes we have to dream big, but we also have to be realistic.
Any position inside the top four will suit us well,” he said. The game between Gunners and Chiefs is set for 7pm kick-off. Other weekend fixtures for Saturday: BR Highlanders vs FC Satmos; Orapa United vs Letlapeng; Rollers vs Police XI; BMC vs Nico United; Ecco City Greens vs BDF XI. Sunday fixtures: Motlakase Dynamos vs Sankoyo Bush Bucks, Notwane vs Gaborone United.