Gaborone United (GU) and Mochudi Centre Chiefs are two prominent teams that actually made their mark this past season. GU finished on fourth position after many years of disastrous performances, while Centre Chiefs finished second also after a long dry spell of unimpressive play. This season Chiefs also won the most important award after their talisman, Pontsho Moloi, finished as the leading goal scorer.
What is outstanding about the two teams, however, is that they have never won the lucrative and prestigious Coca-Cola Cup since its inception in 1992. GU has been to the finals twice and they lost to both Rollers and Mogoditshane Fighters. Rollers edged them in 1993 while Mogoditshane Fighters routed them in 2000. The saddest part about GU is that during the years when the Coca-Cola was introduced it was at a time when they were in blistering form. They won many tournaments but when it came to the Coca-Cola, they wilted where it mattered the most. The painful memory was in 1993 when they lost 4-1 to Rollers. It was a time when they beat Rollers in about three consecutive games but during the Coca Cola finals, it was a different story as Rollers ran amok. Even after the finals, GU continued to make mince meat out of Rollers.
For Chiefs, the furthest level they reached was in 2001 when they reached the semifinals and lost to Tasc.
Both teams have, however, vowed to turn the tables this year and promise to win the tournament for the first time.
GU chairman, Kelesitse Gilika, told Sunday Standard Sports that his team is going all the way to the finals and eventually lift the trophy. He said their achievement in the past season is a sign of great things for the club in the near future.
“GU finished in a reputable position in their second season from the First Division. This shows we are heading somewhere. Our team has also not had major trophies for many years, so we would like to put smiles on our supporters’ faces. Also as part of our 40th celebration, we would like to lift the Coca Cola Cup and make our celebrations even more special,” he said.
Gilika added that since the Coca-Cola Cup affords teams a chance to participate in the African competitions, they also would like to go for that opportunity. He said African competitions expose the players and that could benefit the team as well.
Perhaps, the last time GU participated in the African competitions was way back in 1994 when they lost to Mozambique club, Ferroviaro de Maputo, with an aggregate of 2-1. GU then had great players who even doubled up by playing for the senior national team, the Zebras. They were, among others, Gofhamodimo ‘City’ Senne, Patrick Zibotcwa and powerful left footer Mlungisi Kopi.
Gilika expressed optimism saying even the current crop of players can emulate the yester year stars and reach the latest stages of the competition. Bad news for the team, however, is that they are likely to lose their top striker, Sageby Sandaka, to one of South Africa’s richest clubs, Orlando Pirates.
Despite playing in the second round of the league, Sandaka managed to score 14 goals, eight short of the leading goal scorer, Moloi. He has since been invited for trials by Pirates and chances of joining them are high. Nevertheless, crafty midfielder, Itayi Gwandu, would not be lost to the club as was initially thought.
Many people have gone to the extent of calling Chiefs habitual losers, because they are a big team without something big to show.
Chiefs Public Relations Officer, Clifford Mogomotsi, also told Sunday Standard Sports that this year they would make history by winning the cup.
“Everything has its own time, and our time is this year. We have never won the league before and we came close this season, and this means we are progressing. You must also bear in mind that it took English side, Chelsea to win trophies many years. Eventually they won it and that is what Chiefs is going to do. We have been close and now it is the time to win. For the past two seasons, Township Rollers knocked us out of the competition twice in the quarter finals and I don’t seeing that happening again because we have a depth of players to choose from compared to many teams,” he said.
Currently, Chiefs boasts many players who are also doing the job for both the national Under 23 and the senior team. Even their bench is always full of players who deserve first team action.
It is now up to the two teams to show that they are indeed a force to reckon with. Whether they will falter where it matters the most like in the previous seasons remains to be seen.