Thursday, July 18, 2024

Meleka gives Chiefs’ supporters renewed hope

In recent times, local football supporters have been complaining that Premier League clubs are signing foreign players who are mediocre unlike in the past when foreign players used to set our league alight.

The recent example was that of Gaborone United’s Zimbabwean striker Baloni Chiseko who could not give the club what they expected from him. The Reds eventually bowed to pressure from the supporters and showed Chiseko the exit door 10 games into the season.

When the season started, Mochudi Centre Chiefs silently went on a mission to buy a quality defender and midfielder in order to boost their side as they challenge for their second league title since 2008. Kgatleng giants landed defender Arnold Chaka and midfielder Elvis Meleka from Zimbabwe. While it took compatriot Chaka sometime to make his debut for Chiefs due to paperwork, Meleka was introduced to Botswana football when Magosi white-washed Township Rollers 5-2 in the opening league game on August 13. It was on that day when most of the supporters, including the ones from the opposition, spoke highly about the well-built midfield general.

Strangely, Meleka was carrying a knock when he made his debut and was not at his best. But you could see pure class in his play throughout the 90 minutes.

“He bossed the midfield and our players could not match him,” said one Rollers’ supporter.
Meleka is no ordinary player; he is technically gifted and many believe that he is the most complete central midfielder to don Chiefs’ jersey after Barnes Maplanka and Douglas Mwamba. His panache, style and flair have given Chiefs’ supporters renewed hope that their side can lift the trophy, which they last won in 2008.

The Harare-born midfielder never thought that he would play in the Botswana league but when his manager Omega Sibanda approached him about Chiefs’ offer, he decided to give it a shot. At the time, he was plying his trade at Zimbabwean giants Gunners FC. He does not regret making a move here as he has enjoyed donning the famous black and white stripes of Magosi.

“The guys have been so nice since we arrived here, especially Pontsho (Moloi). I think Chiefs have what it takes to win the league but it’s not going to be simple. All we need to do is to maintain our focus in the remaining three matches of the first round. After the break (African Cup of Nations) when the league resumes for the second round, then we’ll be in a pole position,” he said.

On the standard of Botswana football, he believes that it has grown in leaps and bounds. He has been impressed by the level of competition in the Be MOBILE Premier League.

“When we played Rollers, everyone was talking about that game. Even the players, you could see that they’re up to it. I was expecting a tough game but it was the opposite. I find playing small teams like GNT more challenging because they don’t give you space,” he said.

Meleka praised Chiefs supporters saying that they have served a big motivation in their quest for league honours. Before their league game against Police XI this afternoon (Sunday), Chiefs were top of the log standings with 31 points from 12 games.

“The supporters have been unbelievable, especially their singing; they make us push harder even when the going is tough. We’ll need them throughout the season. Chiefs’ supporters expect us to win every game no matter what but they must understand we can’t deliberately lose a game,” he pointed out.

Meleka, who has been capped 24 times with the Zimbabwean national team, knows that his chances of ever receiving a call-up are slim since he is in Botswana.

“People there do not take football here seriously but with the Zebras having qualified for AFCON, I think most people will start looking at the league in a different way,” the 25 year-old said.
Meleka has also represented his country at Under 17, 20 and 23 levels. If he continues to deliver at the heart of Chiefs’ midfield, there is no doubt that the supporters will continue to be entertained.


Read this week's paper