Saturday, May 8, 2021

Mapantsula coach moves from hero to villain

Technically and tactically Mapantsula were top-notch. Their rat-a-tat short passing game and rapid transition from rear guard action to attack had their fans cooing with ecstasy.

In the final, they made high-spending Mochudi Centre Chiefs toil for a 2-0 win, the loss attributed to fatigue.

Gunners’ supporters were a mellow, satisfied lot as they trooped out of Lobatse Stadium at the end of the match. They could now look forward to more sunny displays during the up-coming Premier League games.

For many of the anxious fans, itching for more of that heady and fearless display of soccer against better-resourced rivals, the opening of the fixtures seemed a long time coming. Right on schedule, the league kicked off on the night of September 13.

Memories of their team’s fine run in the Kabelano Charity Cup still fresh, and with Gunners facing a Rollers side they had consigned to defeat in Lobatse, the side’s fans were buoyant heading into the opening fixture. Never mind that to the coaches the atmosphere of a cup tie, and the tactical approach perhaps, might differ from that of a league fixture.

The notorious Pandamatenga at the National Stadium was a sea of humanity as the Gunner’s fans, kitted out in the teams’ famous white and black, packed the stand.

Mapantsula fans were in fine song as they cheered their side on in this game played under floodlights, each spell of possession greeted by shrill whistles and ululation.

True to form, it was a great show from Mapantsula, on-loan striker Mponang Mponang settling the contest with game’s sole game. Dancing in the rain, Gunner’s supporters erupted into wild song at the end of the game.

Despite a shoe-string budget, Gunners had once more prevailed on their bogey side. Their critics, who said the Kabelano Charity Cup performance was a fluke, ate a huge slice of humble pie.

Since then, it has been a different story for Gunners as they have failed to register a single win in six games on the trot.

Out of a possible 18 points, they have accumulated only one point, a poor return by any standard.
Following Wednesday night’s 3-0 loss to Chiefs at Lobatse Stadium, angry fans were now baying for the blood of head coach Odirile Matlhaku. In the short space of a month, Matlhaku had shifted from a rating as one of the country’s best coaches in the fans’ reckoning to villain.

A day after their loss to Chiefs, Matlhaku said that he was not surprised that some people were calling for his sacking. Despite the storm of protest, he vowed to continue focusing on his job.

“I’m not under any pressure of being fired. These are the challenges one has to face as a leader. One game you’re a hero and the next you’re in the bad books. If I get the boot I would have learnt something here but I know that I’m capable of changing things around here. At the moment I’m focusing on our next game against Santos (today at Lobatse Stadium),” he said.

Matlhaku pointed out that there are things which are out of his reach which could have contributed to the sudden turn of events at the club.

He is hopeful that very soon things will change for the better and they will start picking up the points.

The tactician added that in the last six games, they have realized that they are lacked bite and sizzle upfront with goals eluding them.

Gunners rely heavily on Mponang and have struggled in his absence, as evidenced when they played Chiefs on Wednesday night.

“As much as we’ve been conceding goals, it is upfront where we are lacking. It is an area which we need to work hard at in the meantime before the transfer window opens. We don’t have someone who is aggressive in our strikeforce,” he said.

Gunners’ secretary Mosimanegape Seitshiro said that as much as they are worried about the results they have faith in the abilities of Matlhaku.

He said that as the management of the club they believe that Matlhaku is the man to take his club forward.

“Sometimes we don’t have to look at the coach alone especially when the results are not coming. At times you find that even the players are not doing enough to get the results. As the management of the club, we are trying our best to support him but I must accept that there are some shortcomings somewhere in our part,” Seitshiro said.

This afternoon Gunners welcome another struggling side Uniao Flamengo Santos at Lobatse Stadium. Kick off is at 4pm.

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