Sunday, May 26, 2024

Ecco City makes history for the Northerners

In 2003, a little unknown team qualified for the semifinals of the lucrative Coca Cola Cup where they were knocked out by the eventual champions, Mogoditshane Fighters. Many people then did not take Ecco City Greens seriously because many First Division teams had qualified for the semi-finals before. Some of those teams include Orapa Bucks and Police XI. Police, which is now in the Mascom Premier League, qualified for the semifinals in 1994 and got promoted the following year.

However, when Ecco City once again qualified for another semi-final, the then World Group Independence, the same year (2003), Many people started taking note of them. It can be noted that, by then, the popular player at the team was Blessings Moyo. Moyo who is now at another Premier League outfit, Notwane, is the son of Paul Moyo. Moyo is one of the popular coaches in Botswana and even once coached Notwane and won many titles.

Another player who was slowly making a name for himself was Malepa ‘Chipa’ Bolelang because, on their way to the semifinals of both Coca-Cola and World Group Independence, he scored many goals and, for that matter, against Premier League teams. Many teams started courting him but he stood firm and remained with his team because he had a mission to accomplish, guiding his team to its first ever promotion to the Premier League.

It did not take long for Ecco City Green’s mission to be accomplished because in the 2004/2005 season, they made their maiden appearance in the Mascom Premier League. When they arrived, many people thought they were just coming to make up the numbers and would be relegated back to lower division the very following year. This was so because many teams that got promoted from the First Division lasted only one season in the premier league. It can be remembered that some of those teams are Boteti Young Fighters (which has since gained promotion for next season), Blue Diamonds, Orapa Wanderers and Naughty Boys, to mention but only a few.

Bearing in mind that the team did not reinforce their squad with experienced players to withstand unbearable elite league conditions, relegation was already on the cards. Ecco City, however, defied the odds and caused major upsets. They did not only survive in their first season but also finished in the top eight bracket.

Two things stood out for the team’s success. They had the same coach, Stanley Mwaanga, who took them from the Second Division up to the Premier League. The team also had the same players who had been together for a long time. Most of the players come from the Tswapong area and have known each other from their primary school days.

Mwaanga also once said the other reason Ecco City is still strong is because he always told the players to believe in themselves. When they were still campaigning in the second division, he used to challenge Fellow Francistown Premier League teams such as Tasc and Tafic. Both teams used to humiliate them with an avalanche of goals. The humiliations gave Mwaanga a time to assess his team’s weaknesses seriously.

In their season in top flight football, Ecco were destined for more success as they caused another upset. They finished in the top four position and their prolific goal poacher, Malepa Bolelang, emerged as the leading goal scorer. Mwaanga, who was then no longer coaching the team, was not surprised with Bolelang’s success. Mwaanga said Bolelang had been the leading goal scorer in both the First and Second Divisions. In the First Division it is said he scored more than fifty goals. Currently, Bolelang is on his way to defending his title because he is bearing down on both Pontsho Moloi and Tshephiso Molwantwa, who lead the goal scoring pack.

When veteran, Barry Daka took over the reigns last season, he did not have much work to do, because the foundation was already there. What he had to do was just to find a winning formula and to be consistent. Daka did just that and the only major reinforcements that coincided with his move was that of Basarutweng ‘Booster’ Magola who calls the shots from the back and Mandlekosi Sibanda from Zimbabwe. Ecco won the league with about two games remaining.

Their party was nearly spoilt by Gaborone United that claimed that Bolelang was a defaulter in one of their encounters. The celebrations had to be suspended because, if they were found guilty, three points were going to be deducted.

Ecco have since won the case and that automatically gave them the title.


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