When Botswana pop champagne bottles, sing Christmas carols and dance the New Year away, Premier League teams will still be hard at work preparing for the battle to the finish. After week 17 which closed the year this weekend, the race is expected to intensify when the League resumes on January 10. The usual contenders for the throne, BDF XI, Township Rollers, Gaborone United and Mochudi Centre Chiefs are already leading the pack but it will take a club with lots of consistency and depth to walk away with the title come end of May. Sunday Standard journalist TSHEPO MOLWANE reviews the performances of the four favorites.
Matebele started the campaign well playing an enterprising piece of football. They have been solid at the back leaking only five goals in 15 games. Since the start of the season, Matebele’s goals have come from all the players including defenders which meant that they did not rely on an individual to bang goals. BDF XI chairman Boikanyo Addanes has made it clear that they will add at least two players in their squad when the window opens. The arrival of new Zimbabwean striker means that either Saukani Zulu or Francis Kanda will be sacrificed. Matebele stand a chance to go all the way to win the League but the departure of head coach Letang ‘Rasta’ Kgengwenyane might have a negative impact on the army side. Rasta left Matebele perched at the summit of the table with 35 points from 14 games. Kgengwenyane has been sent to Zambia on a year-long military course. Though his predecessor Elijah Chikwanda is an intelligent coach having proved his mettle at Nico United, he might find it difficult to continue where Rasta left.
Rollers did not start their season well losing the opening two games to Extension Gunners and Motlakase. This left the supporters wondering if Zimbabwean head coach Madinda Ndlovu was the right man to lead their club to the third title in five seasons. Since losing to Motlakase, Mapalastina went on a 13 game winning streak. Rollers have registered 10 wins and three draws which is a remarkable achievement. Rollers have a squad which can go on to win the title but management has to bring in an experienced defender who will play alongside Oscar Ncenga in central defence. The return of speedy and tricky winger Edwin Moalosi from United States where he has been studying will be an added boost. Rollers have to be careful in the transfer market not to bring in lots of players who would come and spoil the combinations they have developed. Upfront Namibian striker Jerome Louis looks sharp and he might prove to be nuisance to opposition defenders during the second round. Of the four favorites Rollers appear to be the best bet for the title.
The Reds had lost only one match at the end of the first round but their main downfall has been too many draws. If they had turned the stalemates into maximum points, there is no doubt that they could be in pole position to win the league. Major David Bright seems to have instilled discipline in his team but his main worry should be scoring. In the last four games of the first round, the Reds missed a number of scoring chances leaving Bright frustrated. The last time GU won the league title was five years ago and there is no doubt that chairman Nicholas Zakhem will be the happiest man if the trophy comes home. Without doubt, there is need to bring another proven scorer into the team considering they will be taking part in three competitions in the New Year being CAF Confederations Cup, League and Mascom Top 8. The number of games might prove taxing and GU must have the squad to deal with the demands of all these competitions. Having released Zambian striker Makundika Sakala, there are reports that GU have identified a foreign striker. Locally, GU has also been linked with a couple of players. It will be interesting to see who arrives at the Village-based outfit in the next month.
Mochudi Centre Chiefs
After bringing in six high-profile names at the beginning of the season, many football pundits thought that Chiefs were headed for the third League title in succession. But things have not gone well for Magosi and they look disjointed throughout the first round. The relationship of head coach Dragojlo Stanojlovic and his players is also said to be the reason why Magosi have struggled to impress. Some of the players are said to have to rebelled against him which led to the firing of experienced defender Tshepo Motlhabankwe, Kago Nfila and Amos Godirwang. The sacking of these players is said to have dispirited the rest of the squad. At the rate things are going, Chiefs stand no chance of retaining the title unless something drastic happens.
Of all the teams deemed as favorites, Chiefs have not struggled with scoring goals with Bonolo Fraizer leading the onslaught. Another thing which might distract Chiefs’ campaign is their participation in the CAF Champions League. Despite winning the league last season, Chiefs’ journey in Africa had a serious dent on their squad. There is no doubt that Chiefs have to go into the market in a few weeks to replace the players they have let go. Should Magosi recover to win the league this season, it will be a total miracle.