FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, recently fired a salvo at teams that he said have more than many excellent players. He said such teams are disadvantaging others because most of their good players end up warming the bench instead of fully utillising their services elsewhere.
In Botswana, Township Rollers falls under the teams that Blatter critisised. Rollers have enough players to make three teams. Rollers benchwarmers are even envied by many teams. During the games, some of the players are even relegated to the stands, but once given a run they play as if it is the game of their lives.
The situation at Rollers was really evident on Thursday when they thrashed high riding Lobatse side, Lobtrans Gunners, 4-1 at the National Stadium. Most of the players who did duty for Rollers are not regulars, but they played tirelessly and some even scored.
From the goalkeeping department to the striking force, competition is intense in the team. Lesego Moeng used to be the dominant figure between the goalposts but youthful Barolong Lemmenyane ended up having his fair share of the game. While Lemmenyane was still dominating, another one came into the picture.
Even in defence, whoever is given a run never lets the coach and the hard-to-please supporters down. For instance, Lolo Mosojane used to dominate the right back position, but another youngster, Gabriel Bokhuto is breathing down his neck. Bokhutlo might be short but he is the one always cuts the dangerous passes.
In central defence, other players like Patrick Mathaba and Pascal Raditsebe are finding it tough for first team action. Mathaba was once considered the future ‘Zebras’ man, especially taking into account his towering height.
One would not imagine Rollers without Raditsebe. Rollers even went to the extent of flatly refusing to release him in the last transfer window when Notwane wanted him. Rollers knew that losing a player of his caliber would have been a suicidal move. But Raditsebe, who is a natural man marker, is now finding himself warming the bench most of the time.
Barry Hangunyu is being sidelined by an injury, but the moment he was injured his position was filled comfortably. By the time he bounces back, he will have to fight hard and compete with players like Khomari Mothuba who is currently on top of his game.
However, the real battle is in the midfield. It is astonishing to see players like Boitumelo Mafoko starting the game from the bench and sometimes not playing at all. Many people did not know him when he was recruited from Tasc, but he made an immediate impact and won the hearts of many Rollers supporters. Mafoko is good on holding balls, shaping the midfield, marking and even ball distribution. It also did not take long before he was called to the national team where he also plays well. But his main menace is youthful, Lesego Molemogi who kept him on the bench for the past few games.
Molemogi did not only do well in the games he feature in but also won himself two consecutive man of the match awards in the Mascom Premier League games. He played gallantly against Gunners on Thursday and even scored a beautiful goal.
Shono Bogatsu, who is regarded as one of the best left-footed midfielders also sometimes finds himself on the bench. He might warm it for a long time if his rival, Edwin Olerile, continues playing like he did against Gunners. The youthful Olerile played like a seasoned player.
Other skillful Rollers players like, Joel Mogorosi and Thapelo Balepi, are also not guaranteed positions nowadays as was the case in the previous games.
For some games, they start from the bench.
The furor that erupted from Rollers supporters when their loyal and prolific goal poacher, Tshephiso Molwantwa, left to join Notwane looks to also have calmed down. Onalethata Tshekiso and Zambian striker, Edwin Kamwimba, now have a common understanding on the field of play. They have filled the gaping hole left by Molwantwa.
With many players at their disposal, it remains to be seen whether Rollers can challenge for the league they failed to defend last season. Currently Rollers are not having it easy, as teams like Ecco City Greens, Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Notwane are strong contenders. May be Rollers will turn on the power in the second round.
Rollers Managing Director, Somerset Gobuiwang, said the acquisition of many good players is healthy for the team. He said it raised the level of competition in the team, adding that it is good because nobody can now be guaranteed a place.
“All players have to sweat for a jersey,” he said.