Township Rollers’ supporters were left shell-shocked after watching their side lose 5-4 on penalties to BDF XI in the Mascom Top 8 Final last Saturday night but for those close to the army side, the win did not come as a surprise.
BDF XI did a lot hard work behind the scenes to prepare for the final where they were deemed as underdogs. After being locked 1-1 after 120 minutes of football only penalties could separate both sides but it was Matebele fans who went home the happier.
In the week building up to the March 1 showpiece, BDF XI had to deal with the unexpected news that Rollers’ midfielder Maano Ditshupo’s red card against Uniao Flamengo Santos on February 23 at SSKB Stadium has been rescinded.
This followed reports that the referee claimed that he made a mistake by sending off the nippy midfielder.
At the pre-final media briefing, the BDF XI executive made it clear that they were not happy about the decision to rescind, more so that the decision was taken in a blink of an eye.
BDF XI said that they may play the final under protest should Ditshupo play against them. The decision was seen as giving Rollers an advantage in the final.
It was the last straw in Matebele’s fortunes having been docked six league points last month following their decision to take Botswana Football Association (BFA) to High Court.
With all these happenings, many football commentators thought that in-form Rollers were going to run over Matebele in 90 minutes.
Unexpectedly, Matebele were in an uncompromising mood and they were the first to score in the first half through Boitumelo Mafoko.
Rollers equalised through Jerome Louis’ penalty in the second half to take the match into extra time.
It was BDF XI’s resilience which shocked those who packed the National Stadium. In the end it was a sweet victory for Matebele who lost 2-1 against Gaborone United in last year’s final.
BDF XI chairman Boikanyo Addanes said that they owe their achievement to the hard work both management, technical staff, players and supporters put behind the scenes in the build-up.
“The odds were against us and we didn’t want to let that disturb us. We put more emphasis on marketing and encouraging the fans to go rally behind us. We spent a fortune on radio jingles where we encouraged football people to go and watch us outrun Rollers. We also sold replicas to the army recruits and made them walk the streets so that Rollers could see that we’re in for war,” said Addanes.
He pointed out that their players were not left in ensuring that they remain focused for the final. He said that they were aware that football politics might have a negative impact on them.
“We talked to them as management that winning this cup would mean a lot on their careers. We also invited our chaplains to our training sessions so that they can prepare them spiritually and on the eve of the final we invited Professor Malete to prepare them psychologically. After all this process we could see that the players were hyped up for the final. We knew that in terms of support we would not match Rollers but the heavy presence of army recruits and other symphathisers worked to our advantage,” said the army brigadier.
After their Top 8 success, Addanes pointed out that they have now turned their focus to winning the league championship.
Matebele are second on the table with seven games to go.
“We’re an ambitious side and we believe that we can win double this season. I have no doubt that we can win the league title. All we need to do is to focus in our remaining games and see what happens in the end,” said Addanes.