Friday was definitely a big day for Rollers. After a five year dry spell, Mapalastina finally won the be-MOBILE championship and pocketed a cool P 1 million as prize money.
Rollers last won major silverware in 2005 when they won both the league championship and the Coca Cola tournament. They then slumped into a dry spell, but they have since redeemed themselves by winning the league championship.
The Mighty Blues also stand a chance of repeating their 2005 feat and winning the lucrative Coca-Cola tournament, as they are set to play arch rivals Mochudi Center Chiefs in the finals in two weeks time.
The atmosphere at the Thursday encounter against Notwane was electric, with ecstatic celebrations by Popa supporters, who had come in droves to witness the historic moment.
However, something was amiss. The supporters’ ecstasy and celebrations was glaring in its stark contrast to the cold reception given to Rollers by the premier league and the sponsor, be-MOBILE.
No preparations had been made for the deciding game, and there was no fanfare, apart from that of the Rollers’ supporters, to show that indeed Popa are the champions. No fireworks, no red carpet treatment. Nothing except celebrations by die hard Rollers supporters. This despite the fact that it was a hard earned and well deserved victory.
Rollers had an exceptional league run, and the deciding game against Notwane was indeed a thriller.
Rollers management could also not explain why they were not given five star treatment on their day of victory.
Rollers Managing Director, Somerset Gobuiwang, told Sunday Standard that the Premier League told them that they will be officially given the trophy at their match against Tafic today (Sunday). This, however, is contrary to what happened two years ago when Mochudi Centre Chiefs won the league.
During their midweek encounter with Mogoditshane Fighters at the time, Chiefs only needed three points to secure the championship, and they did exactly that. Before the Fighters match, Chiefs played Boteti Young Fighters the previous week. Unfortunately, Boteti held them to a draw, and the celebrations were put on hold as Chiefs had failed to secure the championship.
But the fact is that in both games, the one against Boteti and the one against Fighters, all preparations for lavish celebrations were in place, in case chiefs won the league.
Like Rollers, Chiefs won the league with a few matches left to play. But that did not disturb the celebrations.
Champagne was pouring and the league champions were given the full red carpet treatment. They were even given the floating trophy on the very same day. Even some important dignitaries were there.
But that was not the case during the Rollers win.
Gobuiwang referred all enquiries to Premier League Secretary Setete Phuthego. He said he was just happy that Mapalastina have achieved some of the targets that they had set for themselves.
Efforts to reach Phuthego were futile at time of going to press. Rollers won this year’s championship after going for five seasons without any major silverware. They won the league championship with four matches left to play.
The Friday match against Notwane was the deciding factor, regardless of how other teams perform. To date, Rollers have 68 points, which is more than what any of their competitors can amass. The maximum that the two teams that are trailing Rollers, Centre Chiefs and Uniao Flamengo Santos, can amass is 66 points.
Credit must, however, go to Notwane who despite losing the match were outstanding throughout, but missed some clear cut chances. Unfortunately for them they met a team that was determined to win the league. Rollers were saved by their goalkeeper, Kabelo Dambe, who thwarted many dangerous balls. The young keeper is definitely one of the main reasons Rollers are the champions.
Rollers goals were scored by Terrence Mandaza. The Rollers marksman has increased his tally to 31 goals.
It however looks like Mandaza will leave Rollers at the end of the season. Ernest Middendorp, who coaches South African Premier League side, Maritzburg United, came all the way to watch Mandaza score a brace to secure the championship for Rollers.