Thursday, April 15, 2021

Can Toronto ‘chickens’ avoid the dreaded relegation axe?

Notwane used to be one of the most feared outfits in Botswana football but things have changed over the years.

Almost six years ago, things changed for the worst, something which has seen Toronto changing from championship material to relegation candidates. In 2007, it took the magic of their then midfielder Dirang Moloi’s brilliance to save them from what was a sinking ship. Toronto survived and it was something which was cherished by many supporters. At the time, many thought those inside Notwane camp had learnt their lesson and they would put their house in order. ┬á

Since then, Notwane have failed to maintain the same committee for a year; they have lost some key players to other clubs. Five years later, Toronto find themselves in the same predicament, the dreaded relegation axe is hovering over their side.

Ahead of their clash against Uniao Flamengo Santos at SSKB Stadium in Mogoditshane this afternoon, Notwane have only accumulated 17 points from 19 games. Toronto is lying in a precarious 13th spot and their situation might worsen if the clubs below them start picking up points.

The departure of key players Kenamile Mani, Agisanyang Ramaabya, Tebogo Sembowa and goalkeeper Botlhe Moralo has not helped their situation. This has been coupled by reports that Notwane are in a bad financial situation with some players going for months without full salaries.

In a bid to save their sinking ship, Toronto has turned to Zimbabwean gaffer Clever Hunda for the remainder of the season. Hunda replaced Mike Sithole at the beginning of the year. The poor Hunda had to inherit a team made mostly of inexperienced youngsters some of whom are still trying to make their name in the Premier League.

Hunda did not start well, losing his opening two games against Miscellaneous and Mogoditshane Fighters. The club’s impatient supporters were on his case with some quarters feeling that he is not the right man for the job. But things got better last weekend when Toronto salvaged a hard-fought 2-1 win over Nico United in Otse with goals coming from Lemogang Maswena and veteran striker Tshepiso ‘Sox’ Molwantwa.

It is the return of Molwantwa which seems to have brought a ray of hope to most of Notwane supporters. Despite the current situation, Hunda believes that his young ‘Chickens’ can survive the dreaded chop come the end of the season. The Zimbabwean tactician said that losing their two games last month was unfortunate as they put everything into those games.

“We were let down by inexperience especially in front of goal. But the hunger and commitment of the youngsters in the team gives me hope that we’ll achieve our objective (surviving). We’re going to treat all our remaining games like cup finals,” said Hunda.

The tactician pointed out that the return of Molwantwa has motivated the youngsters in the team. It is through his experience that Hunda believes that he will be able to guide the youngsters in the remaining games which are crucial to their survival.  

“He (Molwantwa) has changed the mood in our camp because the young players have so much respect for him,” said Hunda. He called on the supporters to rally behind the club during the trying times.
“It is during times like this where we need them most. Even their behaviour is very important,” he said.

It is said that after Notwane lost 2-1 to Fighters a fortnight ago at SSKB Stadium, some supporters hurled insults at goalkeeper Barolong ‘Toldo’ Lemmenyane blaming him for Fighters’ second goal. Hunda said it was unfair to abuse Lemmenyane but he did not appreciate the way the well-built custodian handled the matter.

“It was uncalled for by the supporters to do that because this is the guy we needed at this time because of his experience having played for Chiefs and Rollers. At the same time, I expected Toldo to handle it better rather than stay away from training without explanation,” said Hunda.

Former Notwane striker, Brown Gasemotho, said that their main problem has been  lack of funds and indiscipline in the team. He is hopeful that they will survive the chop but said that it is not going to be an easy sailing.

“Right now the Notwane family is disorganized, what we need to do is to come together for the sake of the team. There is no need to point fingers for the sake of the team. We’ve to focus on saving the team,” said Gasemotho.

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