‘Why fix it if it’s not broken?’ This sounds like a tired cliché, yet the defending premier league champions Township Rollers ought to have heeded it especially after an impressive first round undefeated streak. But now the league champions find themselves in a treacherous position after losing this season’s Mascom Top 8 cup final 2-1 to cross town rivals Gaborone United in a thrilling encounter on Saturday.
The defeat guaranteed there will be no silverware in their cabinet this season.
Perhaps trouble at the Gaborone West club began in the last premier league transfer window after they signed ‘big name’ players including Dirang Moloi, Jerome Ramatlhakwane, Noah Maphosa and Tshepo ‘Talk Talk’ Motlhabankwe. On paper, this was a great business move by the team. The Rollers executive must have been happy to acquire services of some of the best players in the country. But now this seems to have come at a cost for their technical department. The arrival of the four players saw a sudden shift in the team’s morale. This became evident is some games they played when they were about to face South Africa’s Kaizer Chiefs in the CAF champions league. Rollers eventually lost to Chiefs 3-1. Before the recruitment of the ‘big four,’ Ndlovu was trenched in a patina of invincibility, having gone for half a season without losing a single game. The scoring margin was impressive too, from the likes of Manqoba Ngwenya and Jerome Louis. Ndlovu’s sensational combinations included the likes of Segolame Boy, Maano Ditshupo, Jerome Louis and Lawrence Majawa.
The midfield and attack worked like a well-oiled machine. However, when the ‘big four’ came into the picture the team started to go into decline. This sudden shift in performance very much echoed the previous decline of Spanish giants Real Madrid in the early 2000s when they came up with the Galaticos (Galaxy) policy that saw the La Liga giants breaking the bank to sign big name stars every season. This strategy worked for a while until the team went into decline around 2003. At the time, a dominant Madrid signed a galaxy of stars including David Beckham, Luis Figo, Zenedine Zidane and Ronaldo. Despite this abundant super talent, Madrid still failed to win the league and could not even make it to the Champions League semi finals at the time. Most of the decline in performance was blamed on the clash of egos between the stars. The scenario at Madrid much reflects what happened at Rollers. Although the likes of Moloi are paid measly salaries compared to Beckham at Madrid, P20 000 monthly in the domestic league is still a lot of money and expectations were high for him and other new recruits. This also put pressure on the technical team when selecting the first 11.
It was obvious that the signing did not immediately translate into results on the pitch. In addition, Rollers have lately seen their fortunes dwindle in premier league games. It was obvious that the lucrative Top 8 cup that attracts a million pula prize was Ndlovu’s last hope. This week Popa, as Rollers are affectionately known, confirmed that they had parted ways with the coach. Last week Rollers spokesperson admitted that the coach was under pressure to win the Top 8 cup after losing six games in the league. However, reality hit home when Rollers failed to gel and committed tactical errors in the final against cross-town rivals Gaborone United. Over the weekend, they had to watch with long faces as confetti rained down on United, with further celebrating falling in the form of a chilly drizzle from the heavens. With hindsight, it appears that the hard-pressed Ndlovu’s mistake was removing key players who had previously been crucial to the team’s early success in the season. Moloi replaced the influential midfield dynamo Maano Ditshupo. Ditshupo usually plays well in the defensive midfield supplying both wings and forwards like Segolame Boy. Although Moloi managed some accurate passes he never settled in this position. Neither did Ramatlhakwane. Another experienced player was defender Motlhabankwe who likes to surge forward and help in attack. It was when Motlhabankwe left his position and overlapped that United took advantage and attacked from his flank, culminating in an equalising goal from Ntesang Simanyana. Whenever Motlhabankwe ran forward, the likes of Oscar Ncenga had to cover his position leaving the defence exposed.
In addition, burly striker Ramatlhakwane failed to get past the United defence. He came in as a substitute, replacing goalscorer Kobamelo Kebaikanye and struggled to settle into the team. Since arriving at Popa, Ramatlhakwane has struggled to excel where Boy, Kebaikanye, Ngwenya and Louis found so much success. As for veteran goalkeeper Noah Maposa, there was not much of a difference between him and the less experienced regular Mwampule Masule. Maposa hardly directed or commanded his defenders. Goitseone Phoko, United’s young and sensational goalkeeper, clearly outshone Maposa. Meanwhile, in what was his last post match interview as Rollers head coach, Ndlovu criticised the referee’s decision that handed United a penalty and the winning goal. “A match like this should not be decided by the referee’s decision,” he said, adding that it was a good match despite the outcome.
Madinda Ndlovu resigned his plum post as Township Rollers’ coach a happy man this week. It was a foregone conclusion that Rollers would not renew his contract, which incidentally, was coming to an end in a month’s time.
He struck before management could pull the trigger. BG Sport caught up with him hours after he announced his resignation to gauge his mood: Here was a man who felt that his mission had been accomplished. He had achieved what he had initially set out to do when he rejoined Popa Popa some two seasons ago. “I have completed my unfinished business at Rollers,” said the Zimbabwean tactician confidently. “I have won the league with them, played against Kaizer Chiefs and went to the Mascom Top 8 finals twice,” he said.
And as if to strike whilst the iron was still hot, he confirmed without any prodding: “I have resigned and they accepted my resignation, I am happy.” This is the man who won the league back to back with Mochudi Centre Chiefs three seasons ago. However, this never gave him the satisfaction he so craved. That was until he rejoined his former club Township Rollers with whom he had only managed to win the Kabelano Charity Cup. Speaking after his launch by Rollers at the UB Amphitheater where multitudes of passionate fans celebrated his return, a visibly elated Madinda promised back then: “I am here to complete my unfinished business, that’s why I have returned to Rollers.” He was paraded at the launch with his new assistant Zacharia Mudzadzi. Together they had won back to back league championships with Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
At the time, only a few diehards would have bet on him winning the league that season. That is, considering the calibre of players he had at his disposal. Some supporters even said the team would relegate if it did not fight for premier league survival. It was hardly surprising that in his first game against Gunners at the National Stadium, which he lost by a solitary goal, many started doubting his coaching acumen. But little did they know it was the beginning of a new era. From there Ndlovu went on undefeated and eventually won the league and in the process led his newly assembled side to the Mascom Top 8 finals against a well-oiled BDF X1 only to lose on a penalty shoot-out. Besides those immediate achievements, Ndlovu also changed his players’ mentality of approaching games. They would score an avalanche of goals against opponents; careers of players who had lost confidence started to blossom.
Simisane Mathumo was not a regular when Madinda arrived at Popa. He was played as a right back but Madinda moved him to centre back where he thrived and became a regular. He went on to put a brave fight in their pan-African competition against Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium in South Africa. Beginning of last season, every Rollers supporter wanted Kasane-born Mwampule Masule out of Rollers as they could no longer tolerate his goalkeeping blunders. It is Ndlovu who together with goalkeeper coach Joseph Maposa, worked on Masule’s weaknesses and showed confidence in his abilities. Masule went on to become the best goalkeeper in the land and later won himself a national team call up. He also won best goalkeeper of the tournament for Mascom Top 8 tournament.
This season Ndlovu led his troops to another Top 8 final but was defeated by Rahman Gumbo of Gaborone United. Gumbo is a former teammate of Madinda at Bulawayo Highlanders. Madinda now leaves Rollers perched on the second position of the beMOBILE Premier League log with four games left to end the season. Rollers were the first local club to introduce Madinda to domestic league football during the 2005/2006 season. Notably back then, he led Rollers to the pan African competition, Cup Winners Cup, where they had a good run beating Lapass FC of Seychelles, Zesco of Zambia and proceeded to play Inter clube de Luanda of Angola. On his first stint, players like Gabriel Bokhutlo and Edwin Moluba realised their dreams as they became instant hits. The only coach who has won three league championships with two different clubs in three consecutive seasons confirmed this week: “I am serving my notice at home but I am looking for a team to coach.”
It has always been written in the stars that Duncan Kgame would not serve in the administration of football under Tebogo Sebego’s presidency. On Monday this week, he handed in his resignation letter to the president under cloudy circumstances, writes JOE-BROWN TLHASELO.
Those in the know say from the onset, it had actually looked impossible for Kgame to work with the new committee led by Sebego. Not that the two do not see eye to eye on a personal level - just that Sebego and friends would not entirely trust a man who served under the previous leadership.
In fact, as early as before Sebego’s ascendancy to the presidency of the Botswana Football Association (BFA), the penning of the script on the position of Chief Executive Officer was already underway, and it did not make mention of any mortal outside the Sebego cartel – sometimes referred to as Friends of Football.
It was clear to them at the time that even before the day of the BFA elections, they would sweep past David Fani and company for the administrative positions at stake. They knew then, that they would have to find a way of disposing of Kgame as well, whose position is not elective. They needed to have their own man with whom to work.
If anything, it would rather be somebody totally new, recruited exclusively by the new administration. This, for the Friends of Football, was a must. Therefore, in duplicate fashion to what happened with Tosh Kgotlele and Judge Mookodi immediately before him - albeit under different circumstances - Kgame would not see his contract through.
That was a certainty with the new administration coming in. It was only a matter of when. As recently as this past Saturday, BG Sport is aware, talk was aired in some corner of Gaborone among the Friends of Football that a move be quickly made to push out Kgame and work towards replacing him with Tariq Babitseng, who led the campaign for the current administration.
Not many within the Friends of Football circle warmed up to this idea of Babitseng as CEO. Other names in the executive’s wish list of possible replacements allegedly include Thapelo Lippe, Segolame Ramotlhwa and an unnamed European man believed to be from either Scotland or Wales.
Such information, BG Sport learns, is still supposed to be under wraps, and it was not surprising that Sebego expressed ignorance on the matter when asked by this publication. Babitseng too, rubbished the claims, saying he harboured no ambitions to become BFA CEO.
Yet, curiously, both Sebego and Babitseng spoke of the need to have a revamped secretariat that will drive the vision of the new executive. Babitseng serves in the executive by virtue of being the chairperson of the First Division South. “You will recall that I was a campaign manager of Friends of Football, and we promised several things to those who elected us.
Obviously, we would want someone who can drive our ambitions. And I’m not saying our current CEO cannot deliver on our aspirations; I haven’t heard him say he can’t,” Babitseng told BG Sport.Similarly, Sebego underscored the need to have officers at the BFA who will toe the line of the executive.
“That we are eyeing someone to replace Kgame is not true. All we want are the right qualities that fit what we want. As president, I supervise the secretariat. I have to make sure they deliver in accordance with my vision. Anyone who fails to adapt to the vision will have to leave as I have a responsibility to deliver on my promises to the football family,” said Sebego.
Interestingly, Kgame also laughed off suggestions that he had resigned, saying he was still happily serving Botswana football from Lekidi Center - BFA headquarters. He said he was actually shocked to receive inquiries on the matter.
Yet insiders at the BFA are adamant that Kgame had written and handed in a letter of resignation, and that the news of his resignation was deliberately leaked by a member of the current executive out of excitement at the turn of events. “At the moment, they regret their hasty action as they know they had already vowed to push Kgame out.
They have since agreed among themselves as the executive that they will all deny that Kgame has resigned, and he too has been instructed not to confirm the resignation. They also warned other staff members at the secretariat that heads would roll if they don’t do as they are told, and already there is uncertainty at the workplace, with those in bad books of the current committee already fearing for their jobs,” the insider told BG Sport.
Despite all the denials by parties concerned on this matter, BG Sport can safely reveal that Duncan Kgame will not be BFA CEO when the month of October begins, having handed resignation notice of up to the end of September. This he did on the evening of Monday.
There are suggestions that he had already heard of plans to remove him as soon as Fani lost elections, and was already facing difficulties working with the current executive. This, it is speculated, might have forced him to resign before being systematically made to look like a failure as was allegedly done with Fani ahead of the elections.
Also, he is said to have been a frustrated man, having led an organisation hit with bankruptcy and grave divisions. In fact, from the onset, the BFA’s National Executive Committee (NEC) had been divided on his appointment.
His dreams, it is revealed, failed because of the bickering among members of the executive. What made things worse for him was his stubborn stance, refusing to take sides with any faction, including those who supported his appointment.
It was this that eventually made him unpopular, aggravated further by his decision at one point to publicly declare the BFA bankrupt, which did not go down well with NEC and some highly-placed authorities dealing with Botswana sport.
“His spell with BFA actually started with a backlog of issues and he inherited a lot of problems which included incomplete projects, unpaid debts, a divided executive, interference, and lack of policies,” another source revealed, adding that most plans that he had could not be implemented due to lack of funding.
The source further believes that unless something drastic happens at the BFA, no CEO will serve with success as the wishes of the executive always prevail.Kgame only joined the organisation in January this year, having signed a contract that would make him CEO for three years.
His greatest motivation when he took up the job of BFA CEO was the prospect of him becoming the first CEO to successfully turn Botswana’s football around – modernising it into an entity that could compete with the best in the world. He believed he could achieve that, despite sceptics questioning his credentials at the time of his appointment.
He had only led at the corporate world where there were no politics the magnitude of those found in football. His only official contact with football had been at the time he was still with Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) when negotiations to sponsor the Premier League through the beMOBILE brand were underway.
When he took over from the then Acting CEO Tlhagiso Sethibe, he vowed to prevail over football politics and see his contract through to the end. It has not happened.