The titanic beMOBILE Premiership clash slated for Itekeng Stadium in Orapa this Sunday afternoon will be more a battle of egos than just the quest for the three points on offer. Hosts Orapa United welcome league log leaders Township Rollers in what is expected to be a fiery encounter likely to see the latter lose their first league match of the season.
Hardly five months ago, United coach Madinda Ndlovu parted ways with the then employers Township Rollers amid pressure from Rollers’ polarized supporters who felt he no longer had anything more to offer to the club even after winning them the league championship the previous season.
At some point during the period of the Rollers’ supporters demand for the sacking of Ndlovu, they pelted the coach with all manner of objects after their loss to rivals Gaborone United in the Mascom Top 8 final. Days later, amid pressure and security fears, Ndlovu tendered in his resignation even though he still believed he could deliver more for the for the politically war-torn Gaborone giants. For the first time since then, Ndlovu faces Rollers in competitive league where he should be itching to prove a point to his detractors – both the Rollers supporters and management - that they made a mistake to let him go as he is still the best coach in the country.
Interestingly, Ndlovu is assisted at United by Zacharia Mudzadzi who was also his number two at Rollers when the club last won the league two seasons ago. Before then, the pair had won the league with Mochudi Centre Chiefs in the preceding two years, making them win the championship three years in a row with two different sides. Thus the duo understands Rollers more than Rollers can claim to know United. The Itekeng Stadium will further prove to be an interesting battle field for these two title contenders and front runners with Rollers at the summit of the log with 36 points, five points above second-placed United. A win for United will see them reduce the deficit, something Ndlovu will view as a Christmas bonus and some sort of sweet revenge, and perhaps the bragging rights of becoming the first coach to beat Rollers in the league this season.
On the other hand, Rollers will be eying an extension of their lead at the summit of the log and continue their dominance and unbeaten run. Rollers’ assistant coach Teenage Mpote formed part of Ndlovu’s technical team when the latter was still at Rollers. He too knows Ndlovu’s philosophy of winning and he might be handy to give the current technical team some tips on what to expect. Rollers players too, are aware of what awaits them against Ndlovu with the bulk of their squad assembled by the Zimbabwean mentor before he left. Buoyed by the Coach of the Month accolade he won recently, Ndlovu would want to prove that he indeed is the man of the moment against his successor Mark Harrison who inherited what he had begun to build. Off the field, both teams have sound financial backing and are well-taken care of, hence there will be no excuses.
The two also boast international and seasoned players who have tasted league and cup success before. The likes of United’s Bonolo Fraiser, Patrick Lenyeletse, Ronald Chikomo, Emmasnuel Nlu and Mandlaenkosi Sibanda are some of the few in the Ostriches kraal to lifted silverware, while the same can be said of the likes of Jerome Ramatlhakwane,Sekhana Koko, Kabelo Dambe and Lawrence Majawa in the Rollers’ fold. But then again, many teams are scared of doing business at the Itekeng Stadium that has proved to be a fortress and a nightmare to all visiting premier league teams. At best, United’s opponents have returned with a point while others returned empty-handed.
Initially this encounter was slated for the Francistown Sports Complex where the host might have made a killing in gate takings, but they later resorted to their slaughterhouse believing their chances of winning there were higher. For them, it was a case of three points being better than money. Whether Rollers will lose their first league game of the season or break the Itekeng Stadium jinx remains to be seen, and whether United will continue with their invisible and ruthless performances in Orapa remains a matter to be answered on Sunday.
Elsewhere, the premiership euphoria is expected to start today with Gilport Lions taking on the beleagured FC Satmos at the Molepolole Sports Complex with Mochudi Center Chiefs aiming for maximum points against Galaxy FC at the National Stadium. Another Friday encounter sees BR Highlanders take on Miscellaneous in Serowe. On Saturday in Maun, hosts Sankoyo Bush Bucks will entertain the inconsistent Gaborone United while troubled Green Lovers welcome BDF XI in Serowe. Police XI face a stern Nico United in Molepolole while Motlakase Power Dynamos completes the weekend fixtures with a tussle against troubled Extension Gunners at the Serowe Sports Complex.