Over the past eight years, no local cup has captured the hearts and minds of local football followers like the Mascom Top 8 has, and this season is expected to be no different.
With salivating fixtures to boot, sparks are expected to fly this coming weekend when the eight (8) opposing teams and supporters collide in the first round and first leg of Botswana football’s most lucrative cup competition.
With just five games to play and P1 400 000 prize money on offer to the winner, the cup is the shortest played and has a huge payout for all teams involved.
The Top 8 fest will kickoff at Itekeng Stadium in Orapa this coming Friday with Orapa United playing host to the current BTC Premiership log leaders Security Systems before spectators are treated to a grudge match between Molepolole City Stars and Township Rollers at the Molepolole Sports complex.
On Sunday, all roads will lead to the mining town of Jwaneng for a repeat of last year’s Mascom Top 8 final when Jwaneng Galaxy hosts Gaborone United.
The last game of first leg of the first round matches will then conclude with an all security forces affair on Monday evening when BDF XI faces Police XI at the Molepolole Sports Complex.
Commenting on the upcoming games, radio commentator and analyst Tiroyaone ‘Tyro’ Lepotokisi says he does not think that this year the tournament is hyped up as there is less excitement. He said “I feel the launch was not properly sold, hence there was no excitement built for the teams as well as the fans to get them all hyped up and ready for the top 8 games.”
“They have also changed the fixture from the ones we know, where by number 8 will play number 1 in the top 8,” he added.
Lepotokisi further noted that it will be a fair tournament, adding that he suspects the Gaborone United against Jwaneng Galaxy is going to be the most interesting for him. He said “Galaxy beat GU in the premier league; they will be looking forward to returning the favour, with the other wanting to retain their win against GU.
“Orapa’s game against Security Systems is the other one I think will be interesting because they have met recently and the teams drew nil, hence the wound will be fresh, each team wanting to prove that they are the bigger man,” Lepotokisi opined.”
Moreover, Lepotokisi noted that top 8 is going to be fun especially with teams playing first and second leg, hence adding more flavour to the tournament. “Anyone can win the tournament, I cannot say a particular team because they all stand a better position to win,” Tyro noted.
On the other hand, Ziba Tau opined that he foresees ‘Popa,’ as Township Rollers is affectionately known, as the team with an upper hand in the Top 8 tournament.
“Looking at the team Rollers has assembled as well as having ten of its players in the national team it shows something, that they are ready for the battle ahead,” he said.
“Having most of its players in the national team means Roller’s players have got exposure looking at the calibre of the game they are taking part in, it should benefit their local club in the coming Top 8 tournament,” Tau opined.
Tau further noted that he foresees draw amongst other teams. He said “Force teams have been performing badly especially Police XI; hence they will need to up their game for a win. GU has this season been underperforming as well as Galaxy which has not been on its best form. As it stands, Rollers stands out from all the teams and stands a better chance to win the Top 8 for this season.”
Gabz FM sports presenter, Neo Skillo Aabobe said Mascom if consistency is anything to go by, the 9th edition of the Top 8 will be expected to thrill.
Pleasing for Aabobe about this season’s tournament is the manner with which teams were paired.
“The fixtures are fair and square, because it was toss, there is transparency surrounding it all, my wish is for teams to honour fixtures despite challenges in their respective teams and for team survival skills,” she opined.
On who will win the Top 8 trophy, Aabobe said given the calibre of teams in the mix for this season’s top 8 tournament, anything can happen and there can be no clear favourite.
“I will be neutral on which teams will succeed to the semi finals, mainly because I do not want to undermine any team in their efforts. However the underdogs in the past two years, not only in the Mascom top 8 but in the premier league as well have shown us that they have got this, so for me I am neutral, any team can take the trophy home.”
“One of the teams one must look out for is Systems. It is out there showing teams what they are capable of. However the top teams like Galaxy and Rollers will want to take it home too. In any case, the ‘smaller teams’ cannot be undermined for they are coming through,” Aabobe added.
“The two mining teams will also be interesting to watch. They lost some of their best players this past transfer window, so it will be nice to see how they play in their absence. There is a mix of various teams with various standards, so it is game play, where we see the smart and hungry coming through,” she said.
With all these variables, Aabobe said she expects this season’s tournament to be interesting. “Last year was fun, top three teams in the top 8 walked away with three different trophies from different sponsors; I do not know who will walk away with the Mascom top 8 this year.”