When the executive committee of the Tati African Football Independence Club (TAFIC) was elected in May last year, its mandate was clear. It had to take back the team to the premier league. Thomas Maika’s committee’s roadmap, code-named Operation Bgwilila (Kalanga for Operation Go Back), bore fruits last weekend when the team returned to the BTC Premier League after finishing the first division league with 49 points ahead of its nearest rival, Motlakase Power Dynamos which got 47 points. TAFIC was relegated to the first division league fouryears ago in the 2012/2013 season. Before that, the team had relegated in 2005 only to bounce back at the end of the season.
Like the rest of the team supporters, veteran supporter, Stephen Mbazo is over the moon with excitement. “This is very exciting, I am ready to give my utmost support to the team to help it stay in the league. I will be there for TAFIC whenever my assistance is needed,” said Mbazo who has been a follower of TAFIC since the late 60s. The team was formed in 1961.
When asked about his team’s way forward now that it has gained promotion, the chairman, Thomas Maika explained that he and his 11-member committee committed themselves to answering the call of the Francistown community and put everything in place to restore TAFIC to “Where it belongs.”
Maika said now that the team is in the premier league, the next challenge is to ensure that it stays there forever. “We have codenamed the second phase of our mandate Operation Ghalila Chose because we do not want a situation where the team will relegate back to the first division league again,” said the upbeat Maika who added that, his and his committee’s wish is for TAFIC to stay in the top-flight league forever.
Ghalila Chose is Kalanga for: Stay Forever. Maika is full of praises for the team, the coach, the business community, his committee and the supporters in general. “There was a lot of commitment from the players themselves. Most of them are quality players who displayed the highest levels of discipline,” explained Maika who added that, the players were happy.
“The players received their allowances on time due to the financial assistance from the business community. In short, we had a team of happy players,” he added. Maika also revealed that TAFIC assembled its squad early and started training before the other teams. “With the benefit of hindsight, you realise that, had we overlooked the need to start training early, we could not have made it.
Team captain, Kago Ogolotse, also attributes the success of the team to unity in purpose. “We worked together as a team. Besides training hard, we received very good incentives from the management,” he said.
The coach, Elias Chinyemba shares Maika’s and Ogolotse’s views regarding the team’s pre-season activities. “Our pre-season programme made the difference. We had friendly games with teams such as Orapa Wanderers. The rigorous training we gave our players prepared them well for the high tempo that characterises the first division league.
“The long training sessions worked for us because most first division teams do not train intensively,” said Chinyemba. In his view, with mostly young players, the introduction of veteran players like Zecho Makafiri into the TAFIC team also made the difference. Chinyemba believes that the team did well also because of good management.
“The current TAFIC management is the best management I have ever worked with in my career. Nobody is owed anything. We are all happy and that also makes the difference. We are all motivated,” revealed Chinyemba. Maika had hoped that his team would gain promotion before the end of the season.
“The fact that the champions had to be decided by the last game is an indication that the First Division North league is very competitive. I think this is partly because some of the coaches have coached in the premier league. Besides, some of the players have plied their trade in the top-flight leagues as well,” explained Maika.
Maika also gave credit to the TAFIC supporters who travelled long distances to support their team. “As we go into the premier league, we are going to mobilise our support base and build strong structures across the country,” he said, adding that management will wait for a technical report before deciding how to beef up the team.
“We have a good coach in Elias Chinyemba who started off as the assistant coach. He later assumed the role of assistant coach after we parted ways with the head coach. The problem is that he has only a CAF C licence. We will have to look for a CAF A or B licensed coach as per the requirements of soccer demand. The new coach would need to come early to be part of the selection process when we beef up the team,” he said.
The chairman revealed that, for now no one has shown interest in buying the team. “We are going back to thebusiness community to help us raise the sum of P500 000.00 which we intend to put together before the beginning of the league,” said Maika, adding that part of the money will be used to buy players who will ensure that the team is competitive in the top-flight league.
It remains to be seen whether TAFIC’s recruitment efforts will attract quality players of the calibre of Christopher Olyn, Nobody Mosweu, Matoni Mudzingwa, Tumie Duiker, Mmoloki Sechele, Leonard Matenge and Sejoba Senjoba, among others.