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BY BOTLHALE KOOTHUPILE
As expected, the usual suspects, Township Rollers, Jwaneng Galaxy, Orapa United have been touted as title contenders, with the name of resurgent Gaborone United (GU) also being thrown into the hat of potential winners.
As the league’s defending champions, Rollers will be seeking to make history as the first team to win the league five consecutive times. It however promises to be a not so easy feat to achieve for Rollers as the champions will have to navigate past determined sides seeking to write history of their own.
Debswana mine sponsored Jwaneng Galaxy and Orapa United, who are seeking their maiden league titles, are expected to give Rollers a run for their money. Also in the mix is Nicholas Zakhem backed GU, who will be seeking to end their decade long drought for a league title.
Local journalists are also predicting an interesting relegation battle this year, with as many predicting that the newly imposed club licensing compliance sanctions are likely have a say in who will be relegated.
Who will win the title? Who will relegate? Here is how local journalists and commentators predicted the title and relegation race.
Gabz FM sports anchor Kagiso ‘Fox’ Phatsimo says Rollers will be the team to beat for the title race, but has predicted Galaxy and GU as the likeliest teams to dethrone Rollers.
Phatsimo said given the quality of players in their ranks, Rollers has what it takes to defend the title they have won for the past four consecutive seasons.
“They have a lethal attacker in Tumisang Orebonye, who I believe should hit more than 15 in the League alone this season. He lacks consistency yes, but he has enough in terms of quality which means he won't struggle that much. The departure of Joel Mogorosi to GU also means the young boys can enjoy themselves knowing that it is upon them to carry the team now,” he opined.
The Gabz FM sports anchor went on to say that the change of coaches at Rollers is not expected to derail the team’s title ambitions.
“Though they have a new coach, it won't affect them that much. The core coaching staff has been together for years, and the spine of the team has not been tempered with. These are guys who have seen it all before. They have developed great chemistry, and know how to win a match and a championship,” he said.
“If we get a surprise, it will be Galaxy. They are probably the most flamboyant team in Botswana. They are attack minded and have turned their home ground into a fortress. Their head coach is a winner and a fighter. Also, Lemogang Maswena who has joined from Orapa, is a good addition. He is a perfect replacement for Thero Setsile, and it'll show as the season progresses,” he said.
On GU, Phatsimo said though the team is short in squad depth, it has recruited well this past window and will be expected to challenge for the honours.
“They have a good coach in Madinda Ndlovu. He knows what to do to win the League. The only problem is he lacks man power. Pound for Pound, Galaxy and Rollers have better squads. Also, the GU management seems desperate for success. They wanted to but everyone during the open season. Desperation is never a good thing. A hasty mind often misses the finer details which becomes costly. But they should be in the top 4,” he predicted.
On the relegation battle, Phatsimo predicts four clubs, namely Gilport Lions, Prisons XI, BR Highlanders and Tafic as the relegation candidates.
“It hurts me to say this because I love what the Chairman Kelesitse Gilika is doing with the Lions. He is trying to set up a structure that will be sustainable and beneficial to all related to the club, especially the players,” he opines.
“But I think the technical team and the squad need a boost. Coach Paradzai Mandivenga would benefit greatly from assistance from an experienced mind like, say, Kaelo Kaelo, Tebogo Mokute, or Innocent Morapedi,” he says. “Imagine if any of the three joined the Lions camp! The tactics and approach would benefit the team greatly,” he says.
Phatsimo goes on to say; “And imagine if Lions were able to get a seasoned target man, to do more than what Serati Semadi did last season, who scored 11 + League goals. That could come in handy as he could help them force draws in games were they are not expected to win.”
As for the trio of Prisons, Br Highlanders and Tafic, Phatsimo had this to say; “I mention these three for the simple fact that, if we were to tank teams according to squad depth they would probably be the lowest. This means they will struggle against teams in the upper half of the table.”
For his part, The Weekend Post sports writer Mosimanegape Tshoswane predicted a two way race between defending champions Rollers and the league runners-up Galaxy.
“My money is on Galaxy,” he states. “They have retained their coach, and I believe for the first time, we will witness continuity within the team. The coach now has a 'feel' of Botswana football having also won the top 8 cup,” he opines.
“Galaxy also has retained the core of the squad. They have been together for quite some time now and a handful of their players are the backbone of the national team, the Zebras,” he says.
Tshoswane however says it will not be easy for Galaxy as Rollers will be out to retain the league title, though casting doubts on Rollers’ coach’s ability.
“Rollers are obvious challengers. The team has experience of winning the league but this season, a stone of doubt is cast on their coach,” he says.
At the opposite side of the title fight, Tshoswane opines Peleng based Extension Gunners and Gilport Lions will be among the relegation candidates.
“Gunners internal problems are likely to push them out of the league. If they do not solve them quickly, they will traverse a similar route as that taken by Mochudi Centre Chiefs,” he says.
On Lions, Tshoswane says the team’s lack of quality players may be its main undoing.
“Gilport Lions are also relegation contenders if they do not recruit quality players with experience,” he says.
For her predictions, Botswana Guardian Sports Writer Neo Masanako says “a war will undoubtedly erupt at the top between Rollers, Galaxy and Orapa.”
“Rollers have all the firepower to defend their championship, if only squabbles in the team, from management to players are addressed soonest. The return of Simisani Mathumo and Dambe should serve as reinforcement in the squad,” she opines.
“The problem with Rollers is that there are too many stars who often feel big headed and neglect advices from coaches, and in other cases sidelining a coach altogether. The technical team should also address their divisions which have left Rollers in tatters,” Masanako says.
On Galaxy, Masanako had this to say; “Galaxy is blessed with the return of Miguel Da Costa. He is a good coach capable of delivering and having goalkeeper coach Modiri Marumo at their disposal is a blessing as he is very much doing well in the goalkeeping department.”
While she expects the team to feel the effects of the departure of the influential attacker Thero Setsile and goalkeeper Ezekiel Morake, Masanako says it will only be minimal as “they have a good squad to maintain a good run this season.”
Concerning Orapa United, Masanako says she expects them to be a team to beat as Coach Mogomotsi Mpote will now have his focus solely on the team.
“Orapa has seen the title elude them in the past. However Mpote’s coaching tactics have improved significantly due to the coaching courses. With Adel Amrouche now taking care of the National team, Mpote will have time to fully drill his players and I foresee Orapa untouchable this season,” she predicts.
For the relegation battle, Masanako name dropped Exetension Gunners and Prisons XI as potential candidates.
“Given maragaraga a Gunners (the mess at Gunners), if they do not resolve them quickly, they will be jumping through hoops to escape relegation this season,” she says. “I believe Gunners’ relegation will be more club licensing related than football related,” she adds.
“Prisons on the other hand have been flirting with relegation for the past two seasons and might just kiss the league goodbye if not careful,” says Masanako.
Meanwhile, the Botswana Gazette sports writer Bongani Malunga touted Rollers, Orapa and Galaxy as potential title contenders, while at the other end of the spectrum, he expects Prisons XI, Notwane and TAFIC to struggle.
“The league title contenders will be Orapa, Rollers and Galaxy because of the giant strides they made last season. They are all champions in different trophy categories and that says a lot about the gulf in claas between the top 3 and the rest of the clubs in the league,” he says.
While predicting a close title race, Malunga however expects Rollers to just nick it and successfully defend their title.
“In the long run, I think Rollers will win because they have some much firepower in midfield and attack, they have depth as well. The same cannot be said about the other top three clubs,” he says.
“It will be a close affair once again, but I think Rollers will last the distance because they have different kinds of match winners in their team, they are built to win,” Malunga predicts.
He then adds; “Tumisang Orebonye, Edwin Moalosi, Tshireletso, Galagbwe Moyana, Motsholetsi Sikele, these are all national team calibre players and as long as they are in form the league will be in trouble.”
Concerning the relegation battle, Malunga says ‘because of the points’ deduction’ due to club licensing compliance sanctions, ‘it will be tough for Notwane and the team will struggle because of it.’
He also opines perennial relegation dodgers Prisons XI will struggle, as will also TAFIC, who, though usually playing well, ‘have a big problem of failing to convert their chances. Another factor against TAFIC, according to Malunga, is that ‘they sold their best player in January and they are likely to struggle.
Meanwhile, football writer and commentator Kagiso Kgaogano predicts an interesting season ahead, with four teams challenging for the league honours.
“It is going to be an interesting season. This time around, we are going to see more competitors unlike in the past where we have been having only Jwaneng Galaxy on pursuit behind Township Rollers,” he predicts.
He continues; “this time, Gaborone United, Jwaneng Galaxy, Orapa United and the defending champions Rollers will be challenging, with BDF and Police also coming up but with minimal chances.”
Kgaogano says of the teams in the league, Galaxy, Orapa and GU have made significant investments in their squads, while Rollers has maintained the core of its title winning squad.
He goes on to say despite losing Setsile and Morake, Galaxy still has lot of depth in their team. He says the addition of more attacking players like Thabang Sesinyi, Sadiki Takunda, Lemogang Maswena as well as utility player at the back Kelapile Ndlovu who was very influential in helping Orapa United lift Orange FA Cup, puts Galaxy in a good position.
On GU, Kgaogano said they have ‘beefed up their squad by bringing goal poacher Kekaetswe Mara Moloi and most influential and always hungry player Joel Mogorosi.’ “Remember, they (Moloi and Mogorosi) were 2 goals behind Thero Setsile for Green boot award,” he explains.
He then adds; “The likes of Tebogo Benjamin and Tapiwa Sepatela bring variety and reduce over reliance on Alphonse Modisaotsile. They also have an experienced coach Madinda Ndlovu and if players like Obonwe Maome, Thatayaone Kgamanyane and Baokeditswe Talane bring their best, GU will be free scoring just like Galaxy.”
On Orapa United, Kgaogano said they will be ‘motivated from their FA Cup win and the return of Makgantai and their Coach Mpote, who for now knows the strengths and weaknesses of most players.’
“They have also made reinforcements with the likes of Thato Seagateng, Lawrence Nduga, Allen Ndodole, Oabile Makopo.”
Speaking about Rollers chances, Kgaogano says ‘the defending Champions still have their league winning squad to push their title defending to the end.’
He further says the return of Mathumo will solidify their defense, while upfront, ‘all eyes will be on Tumisang Orebonye to bang in goals.’
About who will face the axe, Kgaogano cites TAFIC, Molepolole City Stars, Gilport Lions, Morupule Wanderers and Notwane as potential relegation candidates.
“Molepolole City Stars is in a rebuilding phase and has lost a lot of its players from the past season. Starting the season on negative 3 points because of club licensing sanctions will hit them hard going forward,” he opines.
“The same applies for Notwane who currently do not even have a coach. The club licensing sanctions will hit hard on clubs and if the Botswana Football Association (BFA) does not get lenient, some clubs will not even finish the league this season,” he concludes.
For her predictions, Botswana Television (BTv) sports presenter Karabo Bosena says it will be a tough season, with Galaxy, Orapa, GU and Rollers in the mix, but she expects the latter to win the title.
“Rollers basically have everything that they need, in terms of resources. Their players are paid on time, they got no reason not to perform. They made a couple of signings when the season started, and when you look at these signings, there were not just signings, they brought players they needed,” she says.
She says while Rollers roped in a new coach in Traucha, expectation is that he will take Mapalastina to dream Land as he also has a strong technical team boosted by the likes of his assistant Zachariah Mudzadzi, who has been in Botswana for a long time now.
“The other contender is Galaxy. Just like Popa, Galaxy has resources to compete for every cup in front of them. They are continuing with the same coach from last season and the belief is that he is now familiar with local football and he will bring in results,” she says.
“They have good players looking at the fact that they brought in Maswena, Katlego Mbise and others. These are quality players that can make Galaxy compete. They might have lost Setsile and Morake, but I don't see that affecting them too much. They should do the right thing and compete in the field of play and management should leave coaching to the technical team,” she says.
As for Orapa, Bosena had this to say: “My main problem with Orapa is inconsistency on and off the field. Orapa is one team which can bring 11 new players in January and in August they will release 15 players, which is shocking for a team of their calibre,” she says.
“Should they focus and BE A TEAM, they can bring competition to our local league. All eyes will be the man at the helm Teenage Mpote. He has been an assistant coach for most of the time in his career and the jury is out on whether he will be able to compete against Popa, Galaxy and GU. With all the necessary resources and support I believe he can. The Ostriches has good players and it is time for them to step up and bring the league trophy to Boteti.”
Meanwhile, Bosena says she expects GU to be a force to reckon with this season despite having what she says ‘is basically a new team.’
“They have a management which looks like will take them to dream Land. They have brought in experienced coach in Madinda Ndlovu and you can't mention Botswana football and not mention the Zimbabwean gaffer,” she says.
“They have also brought in experienced players in Mara Moloi and Joel Mogorosi. They have a squad that can give the coach a good headache when it comes to selection. It is going to depend on them on how they are going to work together and how soon can they BE A TEAM,” Bosena opines.
On who is the likeliest to relegate, the BTv sports anchor names Lions and Prisons at the top of her list, with BR Highlanders and TAFIC also making the list.
“It is going to be a tough season for Gilport Lions. Financially they are not that strong to compete with other teams and that is supported by the signings they made in the recently ended window. I believe they didn't do enough to stay in the top league but hey this is football,” she predicts.
On her other potential relegation candidate Prisons XI, Bosena says; “They survived last season yes, but this season I foresee the same story happening. If they are not careful they will go. Yes they have almost the same technical team and players as of last season and we saw how they struggled, I don't see anything much changing at Prisons.”
“Other teams which should take stock of themselves it's BR Highlanders and Tafic. Then there is Morupule Wanderers. This is one team that most of us will be looking at. Yes they have players but the question is do they have a team? That remains to be seen. Prior to the start of the season they changed coaches, letting go of Boyo n bringing in Drago. Will Drago n these players understand each other well on time?” she concludes.