Saturday, September 23, 2023

This is War! And the winner lives to fight another day

When Gaborone United (GU) and Township Rollers met a weekend ago at the Lobatse Sports complex, the latter found itself on the receiving end.

Today, just eight days later, the two cross city rivals meet again, this time in the semifinals of the Orange FA Cup. And when the whistle blows to start the match at the National Stadium, there will be more than just the city’s bragging rights at stake. 

GU are the defending champions after winning the Orange FA Cup for the past two consecutive seasons. History is beckoning. They want to do it for the third consecutive time. Above all, this may be their only chance at winning silverware this season.

While they are still in the hunt for Botswana Premier League (BPL) title honours, their fate is not in their own hands. They have to rely on others to help them. With the Orange FA Cup, it is their fate in their own hands.

“Chances of us retaining the league title are very slim. It is out of our own hands. Jwaneng Galaxy needs only one win to claim the title and the way it is, they are unlikely to lose either of the two remaining games,” GU Communications and Marketing Manager Herbert Letsebe says.

“As a team, our focus is on playing in the CAF competitions regularly. We want to regularly expose our players to competitions at the highest level. The Orange FA Cup now remains our only way in,” he adds.

He alludes that they are also seeking to write history as the only club in the country to have won the FA Cup in three consecutive seasons. And they also cannot afford to lose all the titles they were defending this season.

Unlike in the previous encounter in which GU sauntered to a 2 – 0 win, this time around, there will be war. This is what the GU Communications and Marketing Manager expects today. No motivation will be needed from both sets of players to perform.

“This is a totally new ball game. There will be a lot at stake for both teams. Last week’s results or performance is not a factor. Rollers’ focus, even this past weekend, was on winning the FA Cup. We expect them to fight,” Letsebe says.

For GU, they go into the game with almost the full compliment of their squad. They welcomed back midfield lynchpin Lebogang Ditsele beck in the team following injury and a bout of flu on Wednesday and Thursday. The only notable absentee will be Mothusi Johnson who will be serving a suspension.

“The team is prepared for this encounter. The boys are motivated. We need to win this cup to salvage our season. It will also motivate us to start well this upcoming season,” Letsebe says.

Unlike last week however, Rollers will not be rolling on the ground for GU. The team’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) Pako Lebanna says the team is ready to rather roll over GU to quench its supporters’ two seasons silverware drought.

This will be a cup final before a cup final. “We want this cup more than anything. This is the one we want the most,” Lebanna says. “We are ready for GU. The players are motivated. When we played them last weekend, we wanted to win. Our loss to them has motivated the team to win,” he adds.

Like Letsebe, the importance of this weekend’s clash is not lost to Lebanna and Rollers. This will be the team’s last chance saloon to put a smile on the faces of their long-suffering supporters. It will be Popa’s chance to salvage what has been a disastrous season.

“We have had a bad season. For the first time in a very long time, we find ourselves in position four in the league and out of league title contention. This is our chance to make things right. A win will bring a feel-good factor for our supporters,” he says.

More than anything, Lebanna says Rollers’ ambition is to always play in the CAF competitions. This will also be their last chance to find a way into the continental competition. “No pressure on this team, but the game is very important,” he says.

“Winning the cup will motivate us to start the next season well. Some of the players in this team have not won silverware. They need to have a medal around their necks. They are motivated to go all the way and win it,” says the Rollers PRO.

Rollers’ ambitions will be boosted by the return from of talismanic midfielder Mogakolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele as well as Namibian Terry Uiseb. Ngele missed last week’s encounter with a minor injury while Uiseb returns after a long spell on the sidelines, also due to an injury. On the flipside, they will be without midfielder Phenyo Serameng who is out injured and also serving a ban. Another absentee will be youthful defender Babutsi who was sent off during the two teams encounter last weekend.

For this game, both Letsebe and Lebanna agree it will be a final before the final. The game kicks off at 1500 hours.


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