After missing relegation by a whisker in the previous season, diamond-mining town side Orapa United have turned their tables around this campaign much to the surprise of football commentators. After a shaky start to the campaign which saw them lose 3-0 to the bottom of the table side Letlapeng, ‘The Ostriches’ have managed to pick up the pieces and they are challenging for the honours.
The less fashionable side under experienced Zimbabwean tactician Maxwell Moyo has now turned their backyard, Itekeng Stadium, into a slaughterhouse. Giants Gaborone United were the last side to come out of the high-security area empty handed after they were hammered 3-0 last Saturday night. While they were issues of poor refereeing in the match, it is clear that over the last couple of months, Orapa United have come out of age.
After 23 matches, The Ostriches lie on the second spot, six points less than pacesetters Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
While everyone in the mining town credit ‘team work ‘ for their success, those in the know said Moyo has played a major role in turning their fortunes around. “He (Moyo) has not only brought his experience to the club but he is also a father figure which has helped the club immensely. The players and everyone here look up to him for guidance and I must say that the boys have been enjoying their football under him,” said a source.
Moyo who was called to rebuild the club at the beginning of the season pointed out that it has been ‘special’ to drill Orapa United. He said that following their dismal showing last season, their plan was to finish inside the top eight bracket this time around. “We’ve surpassed our expectations at this point and credit must go to the players who have been fantastic. At the start of the season, we managed to bring on board some experienced players and that has worked to our advantage. No club can look down on us because we’re a strong side,” said Moyo.
He added that their plan is to pick as many points in the remaining seven matches and see what happens at the end. “At the present moment anything can happen and we’re going to take each game as it comes. I keep my fingers crossed that we remain injury free so that we can continue enjoying our good run,” he continued.
Of the remaining matches, Orapa United still have to face Chiefs (away on April 11) and third-placed Township Rollers (at home on April 25). It is these two games which many see as the championship deciders but Moyo remains unmoved. The Ostriches caused an upset when they hammered Chiefs 2-1 at Itekeng on November 23 last year but they were brought down to earth on November 29 when Rollers trounced them 6-1. “We’ve no problem with Chiefs because we’ve already beaten them here but it is the game against Rollers that we need to make amends. Rollers will feel the pressure when they come here because we’ve got a completely different side to the one they played in the first round,” said Moyo.
He further added that they take confidence in the fact that they have kept 12 clean sheets this season. “Our last line of defence has been outstanding which has been our strong point. If you look at the log we’ve conceded the least goals (20) and we’re the third best scoring side after Chiefs and Rollers. That goes to show that we’re doing something right here,” he said.
Orapa United communications manager Tebatso Hule said that his committee is satisfied with the way the club has performed this season. He said that though they have a chance to win the league provided Chiefs falter, they are not going to put the technical team and players under unnecessary pressure. “We’re not going to lose focus by wanting to win the League. We just want to maintain our present form and continue collecting maximum points,” he said. Hule added that since the team started doing well, their support base has increased tremendously. “Whenever we play here, we’re certain of a full house. Rollers are going to taste the same medicine that other giants tasted when they came here,” boasted Hule.