When ECCO City Greens became the first northern side to win the Premier League in 2007, they were unstoppable. They dished out entertaining football hence their nickname “Mamoja-diskie” and when they played at home, they were ruthless.
The likes of free-scoring Malepa Bolelang, Mandlaenkosi Sibanda, Nicholas Matlhare, Trinity Nko, Zecco Makafiri and Gaboratanelwe Kgosietsile were some of the players who mesmerized the visiting sides in the Ghetto. In the process, ECCO became the hoodoo side of some of the giants of Botswana soccer, notably Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
Games between these sides used to bring lot of excitement for fans ÔÇô even those who were not aligned to them.
They even took the bragging rights of the city of Francistown from TAFIC and TASC, it became worse when the two sides struggled financially meaning that some of the best players prefer to wear the Green and White of Mamojadiskie. Football being football, some of the big sides started crippling the club by taking some of their finest talents.
This meant that ECCO no longer poses the threat they used to display whenever they went into the field of play.
Last year, it even became worse when title sponsors Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) announced that they will be cutting their ties with the club. Some of the finest talents started to look elsewhere, with the likes of striker Patrick Lenyeletse and Ontse Ntesa opting to join Chiefs.
While defender Keabetswe Jenamiso and midfielder Tendai Nyumasi followed at the beginning of this season, other clubs like Orapa United and Nico United also raided the once formidable outfit.
At the beginning of the season, the current management made calls to business community to come to the rescue of the club but nothing has come through.
This means that ECCO depends on Good Samaritans to survive. With some of the established players gone elsewhere, it means that head coach Oupa Kowa had to go for youngsters from lower divisions to make up a team.
The reality of topflight football caught up with them when suffered three consecutive defeats. It was in their fourth game against Gaborone United (GU) that they managed to salvage a point.
It has not been an easy ride for the once mighty Mamoja-diskie. Even coach Kowa is quick to point out that it is tough but he has to make sure that he guides the sinking ship. He has to make the young players believe in their talent and not be derailed by the defeats.
“When I got here Malepa (Bolelang) wanted to hang up his boots. I had to convince him that he has a role to play in this team because it is the same club which is struggling which made him. He has been very helpful because he motivates these youngsters a lot which makes my job easier,” said Kowa.
The former Notwane coach added that being at the bottom of the log has served them well because the youngsters would learn from the experience.
Though they were still to register a win before their game against Orapa United yesterday, Kowa took solace that his side has never left a field without scoring.
“I think we need to address our concentration levels in defence because that’s where we’ve been lacking. I have no doubt that in no time we’ll start picking the points once the boys have settled. In all games we’ve lost we played well and the only game I was not happy about our performance was against GU though we picked a point,” he said.
Kowa pleaded with the business community in Francistown to come to their rescue by sponsoring the team.
He said though the current management is trying to make ends meet, it is difficult. “We all know that BMC is no longer backing the team so life has been tough for the club. This has led to our experienced players leaving for greener pastures. We’ll continue to soldier with the hope that something will come,” said Kowa.
For his part, Bolelang said though he would have retired, there was no way he was going to turn his back against ECCO when they need him most.
He is impressed by the youngsters in the team saying in no time they will be a force. “I keep on encouraging them because sometimes when youngsters are in this situation they tend to put their heads down. We need to continue fighting as a team and the results would come. It is best for them to get stuck in and not be afraid to make mistakes,” said Bolelang.