If at a 2-5 loss against BDF XI in the Mascom Top 8 semi-final first leg you think Nico United are down and out, then the club’s coach Kenneth Mogae has a warning for you. “We may be down but we are not out.
This is a game of soccer and anything can happen,” he warns. Nico welcome BDF XI to the Selibe-Phikwe stadium this Saturday in the second leg of the lucrative cup competition in what many have already deemed a done deal for the army side. “It’s a mistake. We can still come back and score goals which can put us back into contention. Our preparations are focused on how we can get these guys on their back foot. I told my boys that losing twice against BDF does not mean that we are hopeless. It was a case of minor mistakes committed at the time and the boys are ready to cause an upset,” cautions Mogae ahead of this grueling encounter expected to light up the copper-mining town.
A week after the Mascom Top 8 semi final first leg clash, Nico once again turned up at the SSKB Stadium for a premier league encounter where the home side BDF XI again beat them 3-0. Now they meet this weekend for the third time in as many weekends.
Yet BDF XI are not letting the first leg result get to their heads. Even with a 3-goal cushion, the army men are treading cautiously although like the soldiers that they are, they will not mind to add salt to the already gaping wounds in Selibe Phikwe. “It’s still a bit of a tricky encounter, and we need new ideas to tackle them,” concedes a weary BDF XI coach Elijah Chikwanda. He adds, “The two sides have 90 minutes to play, and it is only after that time has elapsed that we can say we have won. 90 minutes will determine everything but we will fight to the end as everyone is fine in our camp,” asserts the coach. The two sides will be out to book a place in the finals where they will meet the winner from the other semi-final encounter that involves Gaborone rivals Township Rollers and Gaborone United. Mogae knows he has a tough task ahead of him having lost heavily against the same team in successive encounters, although those losses could also act as a blessing in disguise.
As they say, security is man’s most dangerous enemy, and it is possible that the army side could go into the Saturday encounter feeling safe and sound towards the final and thereby approach the game with little regard for guarding against being raided. But Mogae will still feel the heat. Losing against the same team in three successive meetings could dent his reputation and call to question his tactical acumen. He is expected to be now thinking of better strategies to deal with his opponents as he has had too much of them to know enough in a short space of time. Should Chikwanda emerge triumphant again, questions may again be asked about the credibility of administrators at Nico who employed Mogae after firing the now BDF XI mentor who has an insight into their club’s machinery. The tall order for Mogae entails winning the Saturday clash by three clear goals, provided they limit the army side to scoring only one goal or nothing. Any other goal BDF XI scores beyond just one, will make life difficult for the Phikwe side as they will now have to win by a margin of four goals to win the encounter inside 90 minutes.
Mogae will also have to ensure that his side is mentally strong owing to the psychological blot that could hinder his players shrugging off the humiliation they have been suffering against the army side. Only then can they begin to play with the untaited intent of scoring at least three goals and ensuring the army side does not see the back of the net. A tough ask, given the recent goal-scoring form of BDF XI. One has to go back to three days before Christmas last year when BDF XI could not score in a match. They were then beaten 1-0 by Mochudi Centre Chiefs, and in recent months it took other giants Township Rollers and Gaborone United, as well as Wonder Sporting as far back as September, to prevent the army men from scoring. Nico on the other hand have been porous, and one needs not look far to see how much goals they can concede in a match.
The army side is very solid and has a potent striking force which includes Mokgathi Mokgathi and their new signing Lesego Lubinda. It is this Lubinda who single-handedly demolished Nico in their first round as he became the first local player to score a hattrick in this tournament. Add to that the threat that comes through another former Nico forwad Master Masitara as well as Saukane Zulu and Nico’s assignment looks daunting. On the other hand, Nico will miss the services of Gift Moyo who is still serving suspension and currently is on a four-month short course in South Africa.
Nico will thus be left to pin their hopes on the likes of Topo Piet, Mponang Mponang and Richard Legwaila to work out some magic. The game starts at 4pm and on the sidelines, there will be other interested parties in the form of Rollers and United, who will only play their semi-final clash next week because The Reds have a CAF Confederations Cup assignment this Saturday against Supersport United in South Africa.