The odds are stacked against Township Rollers in their dream debut in the CAF Champions league, having just lost 0-3 against former serial champions Al Ahly in Alexandria, Egypt this past Tuesday and thereby dropping to the bottom of the group log.
The two teams are expected to meet again at the National Stadium in a week's time and nothing much is expected to change as Ahly are already the fvourites. Nevertheless, Popa owe their supporters a consolation goal or two when they face the Egyptians at home. The game played on Tuesday night exposed a lot of Popa’s weaknesses in almost all departments.
Meanwhile, Esperance defeated Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) in another Tuesday encounter, leaving the latter with same number of points with Popa at the bottom half of the table. Thus far, with three games to go, Esperance are leading group A with seven points, while Ahly who lost to KCCA in their last game are placed second with four points. When the two teams meet next Friday Popa Head coach Nikola Kavazovic and his charges must come with a better game plan and execute it effectively.
Popa’s weakest point has been in the defence which has cost the team dearly. Defensive errors have contributed hugely to the team’s heavy losses in both Tunisia and Egypt. The defence line, comprising Kaone Vanderweisthuizen, Obuile Ncenga, Simisani Mathumo and Ivan Ntenge was in a chaotic state on Tuesday and allowed the lethal Ahly strike force to punch holes in their defence.
The problem is further compounded by an erratic goalkeeper, Mwampule Masule is gifted, but his acrobatic saves are not enough against superior opposition in the form of Ahly. He remains a poor communicator in the defence line. Masule rarely commands his defenders and this leads to dangerous situations in the defence line.
The coach, Kavazovic knew what he was dealing with as the Egyptians are CAF Champions league record winners. However, the outspoken and fiery Serbian needs to step up his game in the fire power department. On Tuesday night, Kavazovic's front line did not get off against the Ahly defence. The statistics speak for themselves as the Popa attack did not show enough ambition against the CAF multiple champions who, strangely lost to KCCA in their previous encounter. On paper Ahly had 12 shots at goal as compared to Rollers who have nine attempts. In the second leg next Friday, Popa’s strike force comprising Edwin Moalosi, Boyo Lechaena and Joel Mogorosi must show more creativity.
The presence of Lemponye Tshireletso will be an added bonus for Popa. With the second game coming to Gaborone, the 12th man will be an added advantage for Popa as the Blue nation will be expected to throng the National Stadium in full force. Meanwhile, It will be interesting to see who will officiate the second leg. The Algeria official who was in charge of the game on Tuesday slapped Popa with four yellow cards.
The Botswana Premier League (BPL) may be forced to delay the start of the league to allow affiliate clubs to formerly comply with FIFA and CAF licensing regulations. A grace period for clubs that may appeal the First Instance Body (FIB) recommendations may also be increased.
The BPL continues to face club-licensing dilemma as pressure mounts from both CAF and FIFA over compliance. An FIB report leaked to BG Sport this week has revealed how local clubs are struggling with this taxing and demanding process. According to the report, key areas to overcome in club licensing include consultation with stadium owners, fully furnished offices, contracts with secretariat and information relating to office bearers or owners.
Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) issued a circular no. 1128 in 2007 called FIFA club licensing regulations. The resolution was passed at the May 2007 congress intended to implement club licensing universally among members. BFA failed to effect the club licensing system since 2013 to date. The club-licensing manual was introduced by BFA as a plan to comply with the FIFA circular no. 1128. The newly introduced monitoring and evaluation instrument may force the league to commence with fewer clubs if any member fails to comply.
The licensing has been introduced to the national associations around the globe by FIFA and communicated through continental bodies as a ploy to curb maladministration, mismanagement and amateurism in some elite leagues. The local association failed to cascade the FIFA vision to make it realistic and achievable, some choosing to go the way local clubs are going about it.
Club licensing objectives as stated on the manual include ensuring that clubs have adequate levels of management and organisational administration and improve the economic and financial capability of clubs increased transparency and credibility. Clubs are expected to have signed contracts with their secretariat including medical doctors, general manager, finance manager, sporting arena and infrastructure. It is interesting to note that a number of clubs official documents from clubs in this regard do not satisfy the FIB. The confidential FIB report points on evaluation of files on club licensing indicate that clubs submitted documents without supporting documents. BG recently reported that a number of clubs signed deals with a number of skilled personnel for the sake of compliance.
The club licensing rules guide that all players are subject to medical tests before they could sign contracts with clubs. BG investigations have uncovered that clubs failed to exercise transparency and openness in player movements. BPL clubs failed to communicate lists of their transfer-listed players, new acquisition and those promoted from junior ranks if there are any. The local transfer window is known for quietness and its dullness over the years due to unprofessional and dubious ways of negotiating parties.
The local clubs had, in the past three transfer windows, complained of the delay in issuing foreign players with relevant work documents by the ministry of nationality, immigration and gender affairs. The ministry has set new standards for awarding permits to foreigners across all sectors, which include qualification and criminal records. BG Sport is reliably informed that BFA is yet to make a case to guide the ministry on requirements of work permit for footballers.
Article 3.3.3 of the club licensing manual states that, “only clubs which fulfil the criteria set out in this manual, at the deadline defined by the BFA, maybe granted a license to enter the domestic club competitions of the coming season.” The continental football authority is clear that there would be no mercy for clubs participating in CAF competitions. BTC premiership giants Township Rollers and Orapa United received a waiver from the appeals board after the FIB declined their applications and subsequently made it to CAF competitions. The 2016/17 league and cup Winners Township Rollers and Jwaneng Galaxy will have to pass the test to compete at the continental competitions.
FIB Chairman Mfolo Mfolo confirmed to BG Sport that they have completed the assessment of club files and communicated findings with all the 16 clubs. The adjudication process will follow after clubs rectify or correct their files. “No club satisfied the requirements, but most of them did try. A number of club performed poorly on sporting category which speaks to youth development structures and the finances,” explained FIB chairman. The aggrieved clubs will be given some time to appeal FIB ruling after adjudication process.
Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB) Secretary General Kgosana Masaseng revealed that in the past clubs used to submit false medical reports ahead of the new season. The bargaining body for professional players welcome club-licensing development as a step in the right direction. FUB believes licensing will somehow improve welfare of the players.
The recent withdrawal of beMOBILE Premier League defending champions, Mochudi Centre Chiefs from the CAF Champions League has rekindled the call for local clubs to be assisted to compete in Africa.
Chiefs are the latest club to taste the bitter pill served by Botswana National Sports Commission’s decision to stop funding local teams’ participation in Pan-African competitions. Chiefs had been complaining about lack of funds to honour their CAF Champions League fixture against Club Maxican of Mozambique before eventually withdrawing from the competition recently.
In the past seasons, sponsors for different main competitions - the league and FA cup – partly financed the clubs when they participated in the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederations Cup respectively. The last time the BNSC funded a team was three seasons ago when they funded the then league champions - Centre Chiefs - to the tune of P50 000 while league sponsors beMOBILE injected P250 000 to enable them to travel to Mozambique for their preliminary qualifier where they played to a goalless draw and later won by a solitary goal at home to progress to the next stage.
They then met Congolese side TP Mazembe in the next round of the competition where they were eventually booted out after two legs. Although Chiefs did not qualify for the group stages after succumbing to Mazembe, the financial spin-offs from their participation in Africa’s premier competition were historical. They managed to successfully sell three of their prized assets - Dirang Moloi, Phenyo Mongala and Jerome Ramatlhakwane - to Mazembe’s sister club Don Bosco. Chiefs’ investment through a CAF competition was only preceded by BDF XI, who had earlier sold Modiri Marumo to Egyptian League club, Haras Alhadude.
At national level the technical team that participates in these Pan-African competitions also tends to acquire the requisite experience by playing different opponents. The same is also true for the players.The bulk of players who form the national team come from clubs that win either the league or premier cup, which each give the ticket to the CAF competitions.
This year, Chiefs and Mascom Top 8 cup winners Gaborone United were expected to traverse the African continent to try their fortunes, but only United have remained committed to participating in the CAF Confederations Cup. These latest developments have forced club officials to call on government through the football association to make a special budget that could cater for such competitions. Chiefs’ spokesperson Cliford Mogomotsi called for immediate intervention.
“BFA must budget for these competitions to assist local teams. It is expensive to be in these competitions even for a big team like Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa,” he said.He added that participation in CAF competitions is no longer about clubs but the country. Meanwhile United’s Chairman Rapula Okaile, whose team will be travelling to Zanzibar for their opening CAF fixture, said they will be approaching Top 8 sponsors Mascom to find out how much money they will be getting.He reckons that the benefits of participating in CAF are massive, citing the exposure players get, which in turn benefits the national team.
To tell the commission’s side of the matter, the BNSC Chairman Solly Reikeletseng had not returned to this publication by press time despite earlier promises to do so. On the other hand, BG Sport sources revealed that league sponsors beMOBILE have asked BPL to make a fresh proposal regarding club funding since the BFA had omitted club funding in CAF competitions in the current sponsorship deal. The beMOBLIE sponsorship manager’s phone rang unanswered at press time.
The preliminary round of the CAF Champions League qualifiers concludes this weekend throughout Africa, and here in Gaborone on Saturday afternoon, Botswana’s biggest soccer entity, Township Rollers, come face to face with South Africa’s log leaders, Kaizer Chiefs.
Many are looking forward to this epic encounter that is expected to see the National Stadium in Gaborone filled to capacity, much because of the appeal the two teams exude here and in South Africa alike. Yes, in South Africa, the best that people know about club football in Botswana is Township Rollers, just as the majority of soccer lovers in Botswana know more about Kaizer Chiefs than they do about the rest.
This has thus set the stage up for what should be a spectacle of Hollywood proportions as not only showbiz icons like Vee, DJ Fondo Fire and Alfredo Mos will grace the glitzy green carpet of the soccer venue, but also on show will be celebrated stars in the mould of Segolame Boy, Motsholetsi Sikele, Bernard Parker, Sekhana Nando’s Koko and Reneilwe Letsholonyane to name a few. Almost all of these football icons are the most idolised by their respective people, and to see them together on the same stage will be a sight to behold. This weekend’s encounter marks the second leg of the preliminary round qualifier after Chiefs were lucky to come out of the first leg installment with an undeserved 2-1 victory at the humongous 90 000-capacity FNB Stadium a fortnight ago.
Just as the South African club’s coach Stuart Baxter admitted after that clash, Rollers had presented more questions to Chiefs than – as they said – they had anticipated. The match’s opening goal scorer Matthew Rusike actually added that Rollers were “tougher than we had expected.” Describing the number of Southern African clubs as somewhat “mickey mouse,” Baxter acknowledged that in Rollers they had rather come up against a different kind of animal, and that when they come to Botswana for the second leg, they will “defend fiercely” against a “dangerous” club his players let off the hook.
Yet Rollers never really looked at themselves as inferior to their opponents as loudly suggested in the comments of especially Rusike. Nando’s Koko had before their sojourn to the South Western Townships (Soweto) of Johannesburg - where they played like warriors - warned that they were going there as local league champions to slug it out with the champions of South Africa for the ultimate place in the final stages of the continent’s league of champions. And the Rollers machine is still hopeful, filled with belief that the scales are more tilted to their side this time than they are to Chiefs – despite the one goal deficit. Many actually know that a 1-0 victory for Rollers, a glaring possibility this Saturday, will see the club also known as Mapalastina surge forward to the next and penultimate round of the qualifiers.
And this will not be a strange feat for a Botswana side against a gloated South African opposition. Gaborone United eliminated Orlando Pirates from the same competition in 2010 on an away goal rule, perhaps a stark reminder to doubting Thomases that the ‘glamour’ tag often attached to the South African sides has not always translated into glamorous results on the field against local opposition. And, admittedly, Chiefs are not approaching this weekend’s encounter with any illusions not any more. Baxter’s media comments leading to this weekend are indicative of a man who has borrowed from Shakespeare’s warning in Macbeth – that ‘security is mortals’ chiefest enemy.’ Simply put, overconfidence is often the worst enemy of human beings, that the false hope of being untouchable by Chiefs’ players could be their undoing. Such has been the underlying theme of classical tragedies where the tragic hero had deemed himself invincible before being vanquished, also underlined in the epic biblical clash of David and Goliath.
And such is the tragedy that can befall Chiefs, as it happened with their Soweto buddies against Gaborone United some five years ago in Port Elizabeth. If Baxter’s boys had ignored that Pirates/United CAF tie as a lesson, then their lucky victory over Rollers two weekends ago must have now given them something to think about – that in this game, there should be no Goliath attitude as both sides have an equal chance of progressing to the next stage. Rollers’ players and their coach are thus warned not to let their away goal in South Africa go to their heads and fool them into believing that their opponents will be easier on the home turf. Chiefs have never lost a match at the 20 000 capacity national stadium.
They beat Mochudi Centre Chiefs there last year; they have in fact beaten Mapalastina on penalties at the same venue some years back in some HIV/AIDS related charitable tournament dubbed Show You Care, and they beat Extension Gunners in the early 90s in another CAF Champions league equivalent – then called the CAF Champs of Champions. Besides, they might be buoyed here by their thousands of resident supporters who are likely to surpass the few hundreds the Soweto club attracted at FNB Stadium.
While Baxter has promised a different approach meant to finish off Mapalastina, Rollers’ Coach Madinda Ndlovu, has drawn confidence from now knowing his opponents better. An astute tactician endowed with the scheming intelligence of a warlord, Ndlovu might just come up with a master class that will leave Chiefs panting and not knowing what hit them. And he has the players with the right kind of mentality to do so.
The likes of Boy, Koko, Thato Bolweleng, Sikele, Maano Ditshupo and Jerome Louis seem to have a sharp ear and seem to heed command to the letter, much like an enigmatic cop dog. It was the instruction they so accurately mastered that saw most of the Chiefs’ stars fail to impress in the first leg. But Baxter now knows better too, and could throw in the likes of David Zulu, experienced Katlego Mphela and a host of other first leg absentees to augment the line-up that clearly failed to click in Soweto. Perhaps it will be a stage the likes of Willard Katsande, George Lebese and Siphiwe Tshabalala will want to shine. Both sides meet after impressive victories in their respective domestic cup competitions, a 4-0 win against SA lower division side Edu Sport FC in the Nedbank Cup for Chiefs, and a 2-1 victory over defending champions BDF XI in the Mascom Top 8 Cup for Rollers. Perhaps Ndlovu was hoping to save the best for Saturday when Koko, Sikele and Ditshupo were made to play a fraction of their cup game while altogether not using Bolweleng and goalkeeper Mwampule Masule.
Whatever the result on Saturday, the South Africans will go back home with a changed attitude towards local football. Rollers on the other hand would have shown why the likes of Joel Mogorosi, Mogogi Gabonamong, Terrence Mandaza, Kabelo Dambe, Mogakolodi Ngele and Phenyo Mongala, have been such a success in the ABSA Premier League – all of them former Rollers’ players.