The eagerly awaited Mascom National Volleyball League begins this weekend at the colossal Ditshupo Hall in Gaborone with six matches slated for the official launch of the 2016 season all Saturday.
In what will be a first for the local league, the weekend matches will be played on the FIVB-approved taraflex flooring that local players only ever get to experience at international matches played under the auspices of both the Federation of International Volleyball (FIVB) and the Confederation of African Volleyball (CAVB).
The synthetic floor was first used at the same hall last year when Botswana hosted the 2015 Zone VI All Africa Games qualifiers.Mouthwatering matches of the weekend include duels that will see last season’s league champions on the men’s side Kutlwano begin their title defence with a lunchtime duel against top four finishers Spiking Stars.
Kutlwano go into the match on the backdrop of losing their influential setter Tjiapo Madeluka to blood rivals and 2015 runners up Police VI who in turn take on former champions BDF VI in a later clash scheduled for 1900hrs.However, the launch matches begin at 0900hrs with Kalavango men taking on Mafolofolo. The second match at 1100hrs pits Desert Kings and Mag Stimela together before the 1300hrs duel involving the defending champions.The Kutlwano match will make way for the women’s pair of matches that begin at 1500hrs.
In the first of the women’s matches, Mahalapye’s railways side Mag Stimela play Dynamites while Mafolofolo women clash with army side BDF VI at 1700hrs. It is after these two women games that the day’s programme will be concluded with a combustive men’s duel that will see long time rivals Police XI and last season’s bronze medalists BDF VI lock horns. The army go into the match looking to come face to face with their former star Moemedi Siphambe who decamped to the cops earlier in the year.
The opening matches will then continue into Sunday with Mag Stimela women taking on Spiking Stars in the morning at 0900hrs, followed at 1100hrs by a tricky encounter that will see defending champions Kutlwano take on Kalavango. The women’s games will be followed by two men encounters that will see Mag Stimela take on Mafolofolo at 1300hrs and Police VI entertaining Itekeng at 1500hrs.
The weekend games come on the backdrop of the recent announcement of an extended sponsorship of the league by mobile phone giants Mascom. The league is sponsored to the tune of P1 million with the deal expected to conclude at the end of the year. For the first time since the start of the Mascom league, most women games will be played in Gaborone with the BUAN Hall at Sebele being used as an alternative to Ditshupo Hall that is scheduled to host fewer. Other matches are scheduled for Serowe, Lobatse and Molepolole.
The last time Ditshupo Hall hosted a domestic volleyball championship was in 1996 when over 20 local teams gathered for the defunct Schweppes Volleyball Grand Prix that was sponsored for a long time by Kgalagadi Beverages. Hitherto, the hall had been regularly used for other several local volleyball tournaments among them the Barclays Cup, the Debswana Cup as well as the Blue Train Marathon that was sponsored by Botswana Railways.
The hall at the time could accommodate four volleyball courts at a go, with matches often played deep into the night. This time the hall will have a single court with synthetic floor.