There is no doubt that Township Rollers is the most successful team in the country and enjoys a huge following. Whatever happens at the club, both on and off the field, attracts a lot of publicity. Since the beginning of the season, results have not been forthcoming for Mapalastina – something which sees them at the wrong end of the league table. This has made Rollers to become a laughing stock which has put their supporters under a lot of stress. But Rollers’ speedy winger Sekhana ‘Nandos’ Koko has hinted that is about to change for the good starting with their clash against Uniao Flamengo Santos at Molepolole Sports Stadium today. Sunday Standard journalist TSHEPO MOLWANE reports.
Seven points from seven games: that is the story of Rollers under the tutelage of Zimbabwean coach Darlington Dondo. It is a situation which is obviously putting everyone associated with the club under immense pressure. The players know that they have to put their act together before it gets late. This is worsened by the fact that Rollers’ nemesis, Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Gaborone United (GU), are enjoying their best run, occupying the two positions at the top of the table.
According Koko, they have to turn the tables immediately if they intend to keep their reputation intact. In fact, Koko is not surprised that his club is going through their worst period in a long time.
“In football, there are times when you go through a rough patch and you’ve to accept the situation. Yes it’s unusual of Rollers but I’m not that worried. It’s not that we’re playing badly and not creating chances,” said Koko.
The speedy winger added that the players are doing everything in the book to try turn the corner. He believes that every game, starting with the one against Santos, will be more like a cup final for them. After facing Santos, Rollers face a mammoth task against their blood rivals Chiefs in Molepolole on November 17.
“We’ve talked about our situation as players and I believe that we’ll be at our best against Santos. While it is important to beat Santos, it is the game against Chiefs which is going to prove as a litmus test for us. It’s not that I’m undermining Santos but everyone knows what playing Chiefs means. We’ve struggled in the past two seasons against Chiefs but it’s about time we earn their respect,” said a charged-up Koko.
Last season, Chiefs shocked many people when they hammered Rollers 5-2 in the opening game of the season at UB Stadium. In the second leg played in Molepolole, Chiefs completed their rout over their rivals through a 2-0 win. “Our fans deserve better this time around against Chiefs,” he warned.
At the beginning of the season, Rollers sent their long-time first choice goalkeeper Kabelo Dambe on loan to South African Premier League side Platinum Stars. The move seems to have backfired as Mapalastina have conceded some stupid goals. Mmapule Masule and Bobby Mathe have exchanged the number one role at the club as the technical team tries to find a suitable replacement for Dambe. This has seen the supporters pointing accusing fingers at the young custodians for letting the club down. But Koko was quick to defend the two goalkeepers.
“We cannot cry over Dambe because there is always life after each and every individual. The club did not have time to look for Dambe’s replacement. So what we need to do is to stand behind the two goalkeepers, especially that they’re still youngsters. We need to protect them.”
Koko dismissed reports that their poor form is due to what is happening off the field. He said that the boardroom issues have always been there at Rollers but the team was doing well.
“People are trying to shift the attention but our poor form happens to every club. As players, we have a duty to do, rather than focus on boardroom politics,” he added.
In his parting shot, Koko appealed to the club’s supporters to stand up and show if they are loyalists. “It’s during bad time when you get to see true supporters. This is the time when we need them more than before. I’m challenging them to come to the games rather than staying at home,” said Koko.