It was one of the most anticipated fixtures in Botswana football, but once again the Gaborone derby between traditional rivals Township Rollers and Gaborone United (GU) turned into a dull affair on Wednesday night.
In the 90s, the match between these two rivals would bring the capital city to a standstill as thousands of fans crammed into the National Stadium to witness what was seen as the Mother of All Derbies in Botswana.
Pre-match debates would start on Monday with both sets of supporters believing that their side would prevail.
Come match day, the players would dish out an entertaining spectacle much to the delight of the fans.
Supporters knew that the side which in the end emerged victorious had the city’s bragging rights until the next fixture. But since 2001, the Gaborone derby has been a disappointment to those who follow football. At times supporters regret parting away with their hard earned cash to watch a drab game.
While the derby which was played at Maun Stadium in December 2012 nearly lived up to expectations, the rest have been a total disaster.
This past midweek at Molepolole Sports Stadium, the two sides huffed and puffed though there was a big carrot at stake ÔÇô the Premier League trophy.
Former GU striker, Chandy Moruti, has taken a swipe at all those close to the clubs for killing the derby.
Moruti, who faced Rollers so many times in the 90s, said that it is about time that all the stakeholders come together to revive the derby.
“This is one game which markets Gaborone. In the past I knew that Gaborone City Council was involved in the build up to the game because they knew what it meant to the city. It is important to bring all the stakeholders back so that the players know the importance of featuring in such games,” said Moruti.
He pointed out that the reason why the Soweto derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs remains one of the biggest games in Africa is through the involvement of many stakeholders including the Johannesburg City Council.
He also lambasted the current sets of players for not showing pride in putting on the jersey of the two rivals.
“It should be an honour to put on the jersey of GU and Rollers. I expect the players to put their all when out there but it is the opposite. With Madinda Ndlovu (Rollers coach) and Rahman Gumbo (GU technical director) having featured in derbies during their playing days in Zimbabwe, I hope it will turn out for the better next season,” Moruti added.
Former Rollers’ striker Mmoni ‘States’ Segopolo shared Moruti’s sentiments that something drastic has to be done to bring back the ‘real derby’. He said as much as the players could be blamed for not rising to the occasion, Segopolo believes that the officials of both clubs are not doing enough.
“Officials have abandoned the marketing part ahead of such games. They only rely on the media to sell their games which is not enough. It was disappointing that there was a game of this magnitude but you could not feel the vibe which used to be there during our playing days,” said Segopolo.
He added that it was disappointing that the game between Rollers and Mochudi Centre Chiefs had taken centre stage at the expense of the derby. “On Wednesday the players failed to express themselves and I was not surprised that it ended in a stalemate. It is time for both clubs to have players who will fight for the jersey. I really feel sorry for the supporters,” Segopolo said.
Botswana Television (Btv) commentator Nelson Ditibane said that the derby has been eroded by the fact that the players were not mobile.
He said that players used to sign for both GU and Rollers because of passion not money.
He also accused the leadership of both clubs for not doing enough when it comes to the marketing of the game.
“The emergence of Mochudi Centre Chiefs has also made officials from both GU and Rollers to lose focus. They spend most of the time worrying about Chiefs rather than their clubs. I would like to challenge both sets of officials to reignite the derby,” said a concerned Ditibane.
While Radio Botswana commentator Tiroyaone Lepotokisi agrees that the officials and players are to blame for the decline of Gaborone derby, he did not leave out the Botswana Premier League (BPL) secretariat for the situation.
“It is irresponsible to fixture such a game in midweek and to make matters worse outside Gaborone. If the National Stadium was not available there was nothing wrong in postponing it. There are so many people who would have loved to attend the game around the country but because it was midweek it was impossible,” said Lepotokisi.