When Russian businessman Roman Abramovich took charge of English Premiership side, Chelsea, in 2003 he made it clear that he would like to see the London-based outfit winning titles.
He immediately embarked on a programme to turn Chelsea into a worldwide brand to compete with footballing dynasties like Manchester United and Real Madrid.
In his second season, Chelsea, under the guidance of Jose Mourinho, assembled an expensive squad and the results were immediate. Chelsea won their first league title in 50 years.
The same applies to neighbouring South Africa. When Patrice Motsepe bought the Tshwane-based outfit, Mamelodi Sundowns, he splashed cash to bring some of the finest players in the country to the club.
There were complaints from other clubs who believed that Motsepe was paralyzing their football by paying huge salaries to his players. Each and every player wanted to don the gold and blue shirt of Sundowns.
Locally, when Ernest Molome was appointed the chairman of the club almost four years ago, he made it clear that he wanted to turn Mochudi Centre Chiefs into a formidable side. It did not take long before he brought some of the finest names in Botswana football.
Pontsho Moloi (Notwane), Jerome Ramatlhakwana (Mogoditshane Fighters), Tshepo Motlhabankwe (Extension Gunners) were some of the then big names which were brought to Chiefs.
Magosi offered them big salaries, which their previous sides could not afford. The results were also immediate; Chiefs won the league title during the 2007-2008 league season for the first time in the history of the club. On top of that, they did it in style, lifting the league title without losing a single game. At the time, Chiefs were unstoppable.
In his second season, Chiefs finished second on the table to Gaborone United (GU) with the title being decided on the last day, before a packed Molepolole Sports Complex. It was heart-breaking for Chiefs who were favourites to win the title.
Molome and his committee continued to bring big names to the club, including Mpoeleng Mpoeleng (Notwane), Mpho ‘Jomo’ Mabogo (BDF XI), Galabgwe Moyana (Notwane), Sekhana ‘Nandos’ Koko (Township Rollers) and Dirang Moloi (Notwane). Some of these transfers attracted headlines but it was his mafia style which ensured that he got all the players he wanted. Chiefs’ brand improved and, unlike in the past, they were taken seriously by the opposition. Their rivalry with Township Rollers worsened, with both sides not seeing eye to eye.
But that’s what made Botswana football most interesting.
Even the support of Chiefs grew tremendously over the years, something attributed to the shrewd leadership of Molome and his committee.
When things seemed to be going Chiefs’ way, Molome and his committee were wrestled out by some people who felt that they could run Chiefs better. It was then that things got worse for Magosi and the 2010-2011 season was the most stressing campaign for most of their supporters as their side struggled under the club’s new leadership.
In November 2010, there were calls to bring back Molome to Chiefs’ chairmanship. Some of the players even threatened that if Molome was not brought back, they would leave the club at the end of May this year.
It was in January this year when he won the hearts of Chiefs’ supporters. Though he was not in total control of the club, he managed to recruit Rollers’ captain Joel Mogorosi though Rollers were on their way to clinching their second consecutive title.
It was a smart move by Molome, four months ahead of the elections. In July 2011, Chiefs’ membership gathered at Molefi Secondary School in Mochudi for their general assembly. It was a heated meeting in which the supporters made it clear that they wanted Molome back at the helm of the club. During the proceedings, he kept his cool, smiling as if he was not the man being discussed.
At the end of the day, he was elected again to take charge of Chiefs. In thanking the delegates, he made it clear that come the end of 2011-2012 season, he would like to see Chiefs reclaiming the league title.
When the first half of the league ended this month to give way for the Zebras’ preparations for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), Chiefs were in the driving seat with 41 points from 16 games.
The defending champions Rollers found themselves in fourth position, 11 points adrift of Chiefs.
Chiefs have been unstoppable in this campaign as evidenced by the 56 goals they have scored. The Kgatleng giants have only lost one game, drawing two in 16 outings. They have only dropped seven points out of a possible 48 points.
“I want to believe that we have achieved our goals since coming into office. The team has been playing well as you can see that we’re top of the log. We’re not only top of the log; we’ve been scoring goals for fun. I think the current team is far much better than the one which won the league unbeaten in 2008. I have no doubt that we’ll win the league this season and the Top 8 tournament. I’m not putting my technical team and players under any pressure because this is something we’ve discussed,” Molome said in an interview.
Since the league took a break, most of the people have hinted that Chiefs might come back a different side in February thus dropping crucial points, especially if they lose their leading scorer Mogorosi.
A number of players, like Motlhabankwe, Pontsho Moloi, Mpoeleng and Lesego Galenamotlhale, have been linked with moves during the transfer window next month.
But the Chiefs’ boss sings a different tune.
“We’re not going to lose any player locally unless there’s a better offer coming from outside. If you have four players in the national team like we do right now, it shows that we’ve a strong squad. I had a chance of going to AFCON but I’ve decided to remain home during the period to ensure that we reinforce the squad.”
Molome hinted that they will be bringing two top notch players in January to beef up the current squad.
Chiefs have also lined up a number of friendly games to keep the squad in shape in preparation of the second round, which will continue when the Zebras return from AFCON.
The main question remains to be what makes Chiefs unstoppable under the leadership of Molome.
He told Sunday Standard that, as a chairman in Botswana football, you have to be hands on and earn the respect of the players.
“Most of our clubs are run by volunteers who are not available every time you want them. So as a chairman you’ve to be there always and take decisions when necessary. I’m always in communication with my players to ensure that they’re happy, if not, I make a plan to make them happy,” he added.
Molome urged all football supporters to take care of themselves during the festive season. He said his club has lost a number of their valuable supporters due to car accidents this year, something which he says was heartbreaking.
“It has been a good year for football. I would like to thank cellular companies, be MOBILE and Mascom, for sponsoring our football. We need to support these companies to ensure that they pump more money in future,” he said.