When BDF XI appointed their former midfield kingpin, Nelson ‘Sarafina’ Setshwane, as coach at the start of the season, he was given the mandate to bring in silverware, most importantly, the league title.
The two consecutive wins against BMC and Mochudi Centre Chiefs at the beginning of the season raised hopes amongst Matebele supporters.
The army side played an entertaining brand of football, coupled with goals. In the opening weeks, BDF XI was there at the top, with pacesetters Mochudi Centre Chiefs, BMC and Nico United.
But their wheels came off and, currently, they are sitting on seventh spot with 20 points, which is 11 points adrift of leaders. Chiefs. Panic is said to have hit their camp, with players losing confidence and wondering what could have gone wrong.
Some commentators have alluded to the fact that BDF XI did not have a championship-winning squad though the management sees it in a different way. Those who have been following BDF XI closely warned that their early season form was temporary.
Their reasoning was simple: BDF XI defence is full of errors and lacks a leader, especially in the absence of national team defender Mompati ‘Apache’ Thuma.
To date, BDF XI has conceded 20 goals in 12 games, something which is a cause for concern to a team which wants to compete for honours.
Secondly, they rely heavily on Mokgathi Mokgathi and Lemponye Tshireletso to score goals and when they are off-form, there is no other source for goals. Tshireletso has scored nine goals, with Mokgathi contributing seven, which means the rest of the players have only scored six goals.
“This is not enough. The statistics show that BDF XI without Mokgathi and Lemponye are dead,” said one observer.
The third reason was that Setshwane is still learning his ropes in his maiden season as a head. To make matters worse, his assistant, Letang ‘Rasta’ Kgengwenyane, is still attending a military course in Lobatse and will only be available at the end of the month.
In their last five games, BDF XI managed to score only five goals, collecting seven points out of a possible 15. This saw the likes of Township Rollers and BMC and Gaborone United taking advantage and skipping the army side.
Though they still believe that it is too early to give up on the title, Matebele will find it difficult to wrestle Chiefs and Rollers at the top of the table as both sides have hit an unbelievable vein of form.
BDF XI chairman, Boikanyo Addanes, told Sunday Standard on Friday morning that it is too early to press the panic buttons.
“A slump in form happens to even the best teams in the world. But if you look at the teams above us, it is a matter of winning two games and we’ll be up there with them. Chiefs are the only side to have opened a worrying gap but we’re optimistic that, come end of the season, we’ll be saying a different story,” said Addanes.
The army brigadier pointed out that there are a number of reasons which have led to their present situation but they are trying to address them. He said the absence of their coach, who has been attending coaching courses at Lekidi Football Centre in Gaborone, has contributed immensely to their slump in form.
In the absence of Setshwane, the team relied heavily on goalkeeper coach Mokwadi Charles and the inexperienced duo of Chamoleke Botlhoko and Otlaadisa Shadrack. “If the assistant (Kgwengwenyane) was there, it could have been better. I have since taken a decision to bolster the technical team to guard against such situations in the future. I’ll be in a position to reveal his name in the coming week. I have also talked to some players individually and I’m assessing what they’ve told me,” said Addanes.
BDF XI boss further poured scorn on the team’s rearguard for performing below expectations since the league started. He said if it was not of schoolboy mistakes the defence committed in some of the games, they could be far.
“Honestly, they (defence) have let us down. I’m addressing the issue and we have already identified some players who we’ll bring on board in January. BDF XI is known for watertight defence but what is happening this season is something else. Even our strike force is not that persistent enough but I believe that they have tried their best,” he added.
This time around during the 2010/2011 season, BDF XI were still lying on seventh spot with 17 points, which is an improvement of three points this season. After 12 games in November 2010, BDF XI had 17 goals and conceded 16 goals. This means in terms of scoring, there is an improvement while there is a downfall in terms of conceding.
Whether Matebele improves in the remaining 18 games, only time will tell.