When Mochudi Centre Chiefs’ Public Relations Officer (PRO) Clifford Mogomotsi and his accompanying ‘Magosi’ fan stepped up to pick out their team’s Mascom Top 8 opponent, a hush enveloped the crowd. The atmosphere became heavy, pregnant with expectation. His team’s fate, as with all the other semifinalists lay on the ball he would pick. As the Chiefs’ PRO picked the ball and unfurled the name of their rivals Township Rollers as their next opponent, the silent expectation ruptured into excited jubilation.
At any other given time, this draw, seen by many as a final before the final, would have caused the Chiefs hierarchy and supporters some sleepless nights. Not just because of the two teams’ well known rivalry, but because as it stands, Rollers are on frightening form. Aside from the meaningless loss they suffered against Police XI in the self same Mascom Top 8, ‘Popa,’ as Rollers is affectionately called, are yet to lose a game in the league. Factor in Chiefs’ Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions league sojourn and many would say the odds are stacked against Magosi, but Chiefs would not have it any other way.
“It is something that we expected. On paper, it seems difficult but in reality it is a good draw for us. We don’t want to go to a final when we were not challenged along the way. This is a good litmus test for a team like Centre Chiefs to achieve what they have not achieved before. Rollers deserve to be in the semifinals but we believe that with the pedigree we have, we want a team that will challenge us and Rollers is such a team,” the Chiefs PRO said philosophically. While it may seem odd that the Chiefs PRO would so calmly welcome an on form team like Rollers as their next opponent, the truth, as some quickly pointed out, is that there is no easy team in this season’s Top 8 semifinals.
“If you look at all the four teams that have made it to this year’s semifinals, you would realise they are the best teams in the league at the moment. All the semifinalist are currently placed in the top four in the league standings and that shows they are the best teams in the country at this moment,” BDF XI PRO Captain Thusang Jacob quipped in. According to all the team representatives, whether Chiefs had picked Mascom Top 8 debutants Orapa United or another semifinalist BDF XI, they still would not have had it easy, and perhaps this season’s statistics prove such. Of all the teams in this year’s Mascom Top 8 semifinal, only BDF XI has lost to all the other three. This, according to their PRO, was largely because the team was going through a transition period. However, to their credit, they are also the only team to have inflicted a loss on Orapa United, who have now gone unbeaten since that encounter which came in the second game of the season.
According to Captain Jacob, unlike when the season started, the team is now in a much better position to challenge for the Mascom Top 8 honours. “We are in a better position compared to the first half of the season. We are in a better position given the players we are going to add who we already have agreements in place with them and we are just waiting to finalise the deals. They put us in a position where we can actually challenge for both the Mascom Top 8 and the league this season,” Jacobs explained. But against Orapa United, BDF XI would have to tread carefully if they harbour any ambitions of making the finals.
‘The Ostriches,’ as Orapa United is known are a team on a mission. “This is our debut season in the Mascom Top 8, but as I have alluded before, as Orapa United, we have a five year plan. In the first year, our plan was to avoid relegation from the elite league and we achieved that. The second year, we intended to make the top four and we achieved that as well. In our third year, which is this year, our plan is to win silverware, either the league or the Mascom Top 8 trophy and that’s what we are chasing right now,” Orapa United representative Oarabile Modise explained. Just as all the other team representatives, Modise acknowledged there was no easy game in this year’s Top 8 semifinals but said his team is ready and would have taken any of the teams.
And even though he is optimistic that his team can win the Mascom Top 8, as is the case with all, including Mogomotsi’s Centre Chiefs, he is also acutely aware that all the other semifinalists have an even chance of winning.