Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Down the memory lane of Popa

Football has over the years experienced so much growth, so has Township Rollers affectionately known as Popa. According to the team’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) Bafana Pheto, the club has been in existence for 60 years, first as Mighty Tigers from 1961 to 1965 then as Township Rollers from 1965 onwards.

“The club has experienced phenomenal growth from humble foundations in 1961 to becoming Botswana’s biggest sports brand. This was done through the effort of administrators such as Francis van Vuuren, Mokhutshwane Sekgoma, Baleseng Justice Baleseng, Noel Liau, Kgomotso Mogapi and others; as well as many great players of different generations who have worn our blue colours. The supporters have also been our backbone,” opined Pheto.

Pheto further noted that the club has gone through several changes which have shaped the club into what it is today. He said Rollers has mostly been a voluntary sports organisation where members contributed their personal resources to ensure the team is able to meet its obligations. “The set-up is now more professional, we are in a better position with a club investor and sponsors, but the Rollers Society and supporters’ club still play a critical role,” he says.

When asked on what the club wants to achieve apart from what it has, Pheto said “The vision is to be a professional football entity that continues to be a leading sporting institution in Botswana, and to eventually become a powerhouse in Africa.”

For staff management, players as well as supporters, being a part of Popa family is said to be what keeps them together. Pheto said “being a part of the Popa family is a privilege and it comes with great responsibility.  Players and staff know that there is a culture of winning that has been there since the club was founded in the 1960s.”

“There are high expectations and everyone has to give maximum effort, from the players to the coaching staff to the officials and support staff- everyone has to be a winner in whatever task they are given, while projecting good moral values and social responsibility since we represent a historic brand that has goodwill across Botswana,” added Pheto.

However, Pheto noted that they have gone through challenges which have shaped the club and took it to greener pastures. He said “Over many years Botswana football as a whole has struggled to get to a stage of self- financing, professional organisation. Rollers was no different- club affairs were run through the self-sacrifice of membership, on many occasions the club struggled to make ends meet and at times differences of opinion arose within the membership.”

Moreover, Pheto noted that despite all the challenges that were not looking good for them, they overcame them. He said “We have relied on our motto “Popa Popa e a Ipopa;” that is we succeed if we are united. In order to overcome all our challenges, we have had to focus the membership on a common purpose.”

“Bringing in the investor Jagdish Shah greatly assisted us with the commercialisation ideal,” added Pheto.

Moreover, Pheto noted that they want to become a more established team in the continent through regular participation in the CAF club competitions. He said “When we reached the 2018 CAF Champions League group stage, people across the continent started taking notice of Rollers. We believe our brand can benefit from more of such exposure. On digital media we are already doing well as one of Africa’s top 35 football brands online.”

In celebrating its years of existence, Pheto reflected on some of the team’s greatest moments. He said “The dominance of the 1980s including seven league titles (1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987) in a space of nine seasons; winning the 1995 league title having gone the first round unbeaten; winning the league and Coca Cola Cup double in 2005 just after returning from a season in the lower division; another league and Coca Cola Cup double in 2010; plus 2018 when we won the league, Mascom Top 8 and reached the CAF Champions League group stage in the same season.”

Looking down the memory lane of Popa, Pheto said it is safe to note that the team has done relatively well.

“The team had done very well, Rollers has grown in leaps and bounds and has maintained a winning tradition,” concluded Pheto.


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