Extension Gunners resume their Coca-Cola Cup defence when they visit First Division South side Young Strikers at SSG Ground in Gaborone this afternoon.
Gunners won the competition last year after almost 18 years without silverware much to the surprise of many people. In the last edition, Gunners saw off a challenge from firm favourites Mochudi Centre Chiefs in the semi-final clash, which was played in rain-soaked weather at Lobatse Sports Complex.
Gunners went on to hammer Motlakase 3-1 in the final to go home P500, 000 richer which saw them campaigning in the CAF Confederations Cup. Since Mapantsula lifted the cup last year to end their years of hunger, Gunners have lost three key players being Kemmy Pilato, Hendrick Moyo and Kgololo Leteane who were all influential in their cup run. While both Pilato and Moyo joined cross town rivals BMC, Leteane has moved to Gaborone United. The main thing is who is going to raise his hand and help Gunners defend the title?
There are new players who have been brought in, some of them without any cup experience from their previous sides. So when they take on Young Strikers, all eyes will be on Mapantsula whether they will achieve their unbelievable cup run from last year. According to pundits, it is not going to be an easy thing for Mapantsula, considering the role that the trio played in the last edition. But those inside Gunners believe that this is a chance for a new star to be born and lead his side to glory.
There is no doubt that in the league there are some players who have caught the eye but their lack of cup experience might count against them. “We want to hold onto this cup but we know it’s not going to be easy. Fortunately, we’ve got a favourable draw and I hope if we win against Young Strikers it will serve as a morale booster to our players,” said Gunners’ spokesperson Abdul Kgengwenyane.
The club’s mouthpiece is aware that they have not been performing well in the league but he warned that cup games are different. He warned other sides not to measure them by what has been happening in the league. In their last game during Easter holidays, Gunners put up an awful performance losing 3-0 to Gaborone United. Kgwengwenyane admitted that losing the three players who played a sterling role in their previous edition might rule against them.
“There is no doubt those players were our spine and it was not our intention to lose them. But life has to go on and we can’t keep on crying over it. This is an opportunity for another player to raise his hand. We might see a new Gunners’ player winning the hearts of the football community in this cup,” he said.
Kgengwenyane said that to show that they are taking this competition seriously, club chairman William Maboane addressed the players this week to encourage them to bring smiles to hordes of Gunners’ supporters again. Since this will be the last edition of the Coca-Cola Cup, the club which wins it will be keeping the cup in their cabinet for good.