Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Rollers can overcome Chiefs

From 1992 up to 1994, Lobatse side Extension Gunners dominated local football as they won the league title for three successive years and even participated in the African Champions League. In one of their campaigns they played against South African side, Kaizer Chiefs. In the first leg encounter in Gaborone, Gunners put a spirited fight but lost by a solitary goal. The return leg in South Africa was a different matter as Gunners lost heavily by five goals without reply.

More than twenty years later another Botswana team, Township Rollers will once again play against the South African giants. Just like Gunners in those years, Rollers are currently on a roll. The difference this time is that the first leg will be in South Africa. Botswana football has greatly improved over the years and Chiefs cannot expect a walkover. Rollers will be looking to emulate Gaborone United (GU)’s remarkable victory over Orlando Pirates about six years ago.

Against all odds GU beat Pirates by an away goal rule in the same competition. Rollers has a squad that has more international experience than Kaizer Chiefs. Several Chiefs players have just broken into the senior national team while some at Rollers have been playing for many years. The only notable experienced player at Chiefs is their goalkeeper, Itumeleng Khune. But he hasn’t been playing much lately due to injury. On the other hand, Rollers has experienced players like Jerome Ramatlhakwane, Tshepho Motlhabankwe, Obuile Ncenga and Jerome Louis.

Ramatlhakwane is familiar with the South African environment because he once played for Cape Town Santos. Automatically Chiefs are firm favourites to win because they are a rich and more professional side.
However wealth and professionalism do not always translate into results. Chiefs players who will pose a threat to Rollers include Simphiwe Shabalala, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Eric ‘Mulomowandau’ Mathoho, Bernard Parker, Mandla Masango and Tshepo Masilela. Chiefs are under the tutelage of Swedish, Stuart Baxter who is inexperienced in as far as playing on the African continent is concerned.

Rollers head coach, Madinda Ndlovu and his assistant, Teenage Mpote know very well what it takes to play around Africa and they can use that to their advantage. Meanwhile hordes of Rollers supporters are expected to travel to Soccer City (also known as FNB stadium) in Johannesburg for the encounter. Rollers spokesperson, Phempherethe Pheto told The Telegraph that many supporters were still registering for the trip by Monday.

“Many of our supporters are still registering in large numbers and by the look of things we might use about six buses. I understand that many others will be going there using their own private cars and that is very encouraging. We need all the support we can get,” he said. He further revealed that Rollers was almost injury free after weekend matches. The only player who had a slight injury was Segolame Boy who did not play on Friday against BDF XI. Pheto is hopeful that Boy will play on Saturday against Chiefs. The game starts in the evening at 1930 hours.

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