Monday, February 26, 2024

Mapalastina targeting the happy times again

Almost seven years ago, Township Rollers used to go by the slogan, “The Happy People”, and that was the time when they were unstoppable. They made mince meat out of any club which came their way in Botswana football.

Mapalastina spread their wings into Africa where they travelled to Seychelles, Zambia and Angola leaving a lasting impression. It was their 2-0 win against Zambian powerhouse Zesco United at the National Stadium in Gaborone during the 2006 edition of CAF Champions League which remains in the memory of many people. At the time, Rollers were brilliant!

Who will forget the mesmerizing skills of Phenyo Mongala on the wings, resolute defence of Thebeetsile Raditsebe, Mmoni Segopolo, Seabo Gabanakgosi, Kgomari Mothuba just to name a few. In attack Rollers were led by the ever-running Tshepiso ‘Sox’ Molwantwa with Tshepo ‘Schoolboy’ Molefe stringing the passes in the middle of the park.

Their supporters filled the stadiums to the rafters whenever the gold and blue outfit was in action. Their merchandise was selling like fat cakes! But in a blink of an eye, all that changed until today.

Despite winning back-to-back league titles in 2010 and 2011, Rollers never came close to the class of 2006. But the recent changes in the administration at the club have once again brought hope to the club which is one of the most successful in the country. Businessman Jagdish Shah has taken over and there is ray of hope. Although there were some problems at the beginning with some supporters questioning the manner in which the club had been privatized, the unity which was displayed at the club’s launch of their technical sponsor and players last weekend showed that Mapalastina might be heading for the good times.

Rollers’ family sang, danced, ululated and enjoyed together until late into the night.

A fortnight ago, Rollers’ players and technical team quietly sneaked out of their training base in Gaborone to conduct their pre-season camp in Jwaneng. They stopped briefly in Gaborone for the launch and on Thursday they crossed the border into the North-West Province of South Africa to continue with their preparations at the Royal Bafokeng Palace in Rustenburg.

According to Rollers’ secretary, Khumo Masonya, the intention of taking the team away from their comfort zone is to allow the technical team and players to plan well for the season ahead.

“We’ve brought a lot of new players (13 in total) so they need to play and spend time together so that they can create a good working relationship. Our technical team is also new so this will help them to stratigise well without any disturbance. We’ve set ourselves high targets this coming season and we wanted to go all out to ensure that everything is in place. Even the players we have signed show that we want to compete for honours in the coming season,” said Masonya on Friday morning.

Rollers have signed BMC trio of striker Kenanao Kgetholetsile, midfielder Motsholetsi Sikele and defender Leutlwetse Tshireletso in their bid to prepare for the new campaign. Other new recruits include young striker Gofaone Tiro from Uniao Flamengo Santos, talented goalkeeper Michael Pepukani from BDF XI and Obonye Moswate from TAFIC.

After parting ways with Zambian coach Mike Sithole, Rollers have brought in highly experienced Zimbabwean Madinda Ndlovu who has agreed to a two year contract. He will be assisted by countryman Zachariah Muzadzi. Both Ndlovu and Muzadzi crossed the floor from bitter rivals Mochudi Centre Chiefs where they guided the club to back-to-back league titles in 2012 and 2013. Interestingly it is Ndlovu’s second time to be the head coach of Mapalastina. He was in charge for the invinsible Rollers’ side in 2006. But he was fired as the then management believed that he was not the right man to lead them to the Promised Land.

“When he (Madinda) was here at the time we felt that he was lacking somehow but obviously he has gained experience since he left us. His record speaks for itself having guided Chiefs to league titles and I want to believe he’s the right man to reignite our fortunes,” Masonya continued.

He appealed to the supporters to rally behind the team, starting with the Kabelano Charity Cup next weekend. He said that as management they have done everything in their power to bring the players who will bring success to the club.

“I would like to encourage the supporters to buy merchandise and membership cards to show their commitment to the club,” Masonya concluded.


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