The second round of the Mascom Premier League started about three weeks ago. Most teams have reinforced by acquiring the services of players they deem necessary to help them to either gun for honours or to avoid the dreaded relegation axe. Performances of teams are seen as a team effort, and everybody’s contribution is seen as invaluable.
On the other hand there are those players who always are a cut above the rest. Such players always stand out when the going is tough and they single-handedly rescue their teams or engineer them to victories. In the first round of the Premier league and in the few weeks of the second round, some players have been the driving forces behind their teams, whether the team is winning or not.
Such players include the likes of Bernard Simakwenzi, Mompati Thuma (BDF XI), Onalethata Thekiso (Township Rollers), Pontsho Moloi, Jerome Ramatlhakwane, (Mochudi Centre Chiefs), Therisanyo ‘Tshutshu Haake (Police XI), Mandlekosi Sibanda (Ecco City Green), Jones Kwape (Notwane).
When the first round came to an end, BDF XI was not counted as firm favourites to win the league, but they have since turned the tide. The main reason they are breathing heavily on the necks of both Chiefs and Ecco City is because of the duo of Thuma and Simakwenzi.
Thuma is a tall and slender defender, and, at first glance, one would not think he can even attempt a tackle. In most cases, Thuma is assigned the central defence role but he is always all over the defence positions assisting his mates when the going is tough. The Nata-born defender is also attack minded. He also has a tendency to surge forward once he gets little room to maneuver but he quickly reverts to his position. Several BDF XI goals have been created by him. Thuma is invaluable to the extent that if he is not in the line-up, it is bad news for BDF. This was evident last Wednesday when they played against Chiefs. He picked up an injury and was substituted with only five minutes to go. Chiefs ended up equalising in the very last minute.
Simakwezi, a Zambian international, has, without doubt, proved his mettle in the Premier League. Almost week after week, he finds the back of the net. He is also the kind of striker who always strikes when least expected. He might be having a bad day during most of the game only to rattle the net in the dying minutes. He also takes advantage of his height.
Thekiso, on the other hand, is proving with each outing that he is one of the most dangerous strikers in the country. One of the memorable games for him was against Ecco City three weeks ago in Molepolole. That was the time when Ecco City was untouchable and was leading the log with five points. Thekiso single-handedly demolished Ecco City by scoring a hat trick, giving warning that Rollers are in for Premier League honours. He has since earned himself a call to the national team. Thekiso’s strongest point is pace and intelligence, especially when he comes face to face with the goalkeeper.
When Notwane let their tenacious striker, Moloi, join rivals, Chiefs, many people wondered why they let that happen. His critics say he lacks the aggression that a good striker needs, but he normally does all the dirty work with his deft touches for his partners. Moloi is nimble and slippery. When in possession, takes defenders head-on and usually finds a way past them.
Before the Under 23s game against Angola yesterday (Saturday), there was a tug of war between team coach, Major David Bright, and Colwyn Rowe of the senior team over Ramatlhakwane. The war between the two was not surprising because Ramatlhakwane is a valuable asset who has a bright future. He even scored in his debut game for the senior national team against Swaziland last year. For that matter, the goal was a world class bicycle kick. His aggression when he goes towards goal and his shooting power are some of his strengths. Chiefs are in contention for their first ever Premier League gold medal mainly because of Ramatlhakwane. He has rescued his team on several occasions when the Chiefs ship was on the verge of sinking. The game that comes vividly to the minds of many was against Police XI in mid January. Chiefs were heading for a loss after trailing for the most part of the game. He earned his team a valuable point by leveling matters from a lowly taken shot despite being surrounded by many defenders.
In most of the games Police XI plays without Haake the team always struggles. Haake is an anchorman in the midfield and can hold and distribute the balls with ease and confidence.
With Ecco City top striker, Malepa Bolelang, out of form, Zimbabwean Sibanda has proved his prowess and is holding the fort pretty well. The tall and slender player has steered his team to many victories with eloquent riposte.
Kwape, on the other hand, has a unique talent of scoring from awkward angles. It was not surprising when the Zebras coach gave him a run against Namibia in friendly game recently.