Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Who will run away with the title?

After weeks of uncertainty, the Botswana Premier League finally gets underway on Friday night with a mouth-watering clash between Township Rollers and Extension Gunners at the refurbished National Stadium in Gaborone. There are coaches who will be under immense pressure to deliver the league title. Sunday Standard journalist TSHEPO MOLWANE picks on the up four coaches who will be walking a tight rope as soon as the league kicks off.

Dragojlo Stanojlovic (Mochudi Centre Chiefs)

When Mochudi Centre Chiefs decided to release Madinda Ndlovu, who has led Magosi to back-to-back League titles, it was seen as a suicidal decision. The Zimbabwean tactician has turned the Kgatleng outfit into the most feared club side in the country. But Magosi executive said they knew what they were doing. Just a week in the build-up to the Kabelano Charity Cup which was played on August 17, Chiefs announced little-known Serbian coach Dragojlo Stanojlovic as the man to steer their ship in the new season. He is a total newcomer to Botswana football and many eyes will be on him to see if he can keep the title at Chiefs. There is no doubt that the Serbian knows what is expected from him as Chiefs have one of the most impatient support-base in the country.

Stanojlovic is blessed with the strongest squad in the country and he would not have any excuse when things go wrong. He arrives at a time when Chiefs have been taken over by new investors and the issue of non-payment of players is a thing of the past. Chiefs have in the past brought unknown mentors who later established themselves into household names. When they brought Veselin Jelusic almost a decade ago, many people were skeptical but his team played scintillating football. Jelusic was later appointed Zebras head coach. So the ball is in Stanojlovic’s court to prove himself to the rest of Chiefs’ family.

Madinda Ndlovu (Township Rollers)

He has proven beyond doubt that he is a good tactician though some bookmakers may differ. His decision to cross floor to Chiefs’ rivals has left a bitter taste in many supporters’ mouths but Ndlovu’s was a well-planned move. Joining Rollers means Ndlovu starts from the scratch as he has to understand the different mentalities of players at his exposal. When he left Chiefs, Ndlovu went with his countryman and right-hand man, Zachariah Muzadzi. But Rollers have since appointed Teenage Mpote as his first assistant. Whether the two will work together peacefully it remains to be seen.

One thing which has worked wonders for Madinda at Chiefs is that he is a disciplinarian who treats his players equally. His coach-player relationship is one of the best in the country hence he has succeeded where many have failed. If he uses the same mentality at Rollers there is no doubt that Mapalastina will be a force to reckon with. While Madinda took the Kabelano Charity Cup as a mere pre-season tournament, it left many of Rollers’ supporters disappointed at the fact that they lost to Extension Gunners. That alone has put pressure on the Zimbabwean tactician to bring silverware to Rollers. The last time Rollers won league title was in 2010 and most of them are hungry for success. Rollers’ opening game against Gunners in the league will be a litmus test for Madinda and if he wins with style, he will surely settle quickly in the hearts of Rollers’ faithfuls.

If Madinda wants to win the league for the third time in a row, he will have to come up with something special as the likes of Chiefs and Gaborone United will not be a pushover.

David Bright (Gaborone United)

Just like Madinda, Bright is a well known disciplinarian thanks to his time at the army barracks. The former army major begins his second spell at Gaborone United and he is without doubt aware of the expectations. After last season’s fourth finish, Gaborone United supporters would not appreciate nothing less than league title. The Reds have done enough to bring on board some of the finest talent in the country and it is Bright’s role to come up with right combinations to win games.

The Reds begin their campaign with what seems like an easy away match to Miscellaneous in Palapye on Sunday but it might turn out to be a frustrating day for the Reds. Bright’s side has been hit by injuries prior to the start of the campaign and he might be keeping his fingers crossed that the situation does not get out of hand. The only challenge that Bright might face is that of fatigue to his key players who have not rested since last season. During the break, eight of GU players were involved with the national teams at the Cosafa Senior Challenge and CHAN.

If Bright fails to win the league it might cost him his job because the Reds’ management has invested a lot on the team. It is time for Bright to raise hand and show the football fraternity that he still has the same pedigree like the time when he led Mogoditshane Fighters to back-to-back title in the late 1990s.

Odirile Matlhaku (Extension Gunners)

He arrived at Gunners and was tasked with turning Gunners into a formidable side. A seventh place finish in his maiden season was fair enough considering the kind of playing staff at his exposal but this season a lot will be expected of him. Gunners set themselves a standard by performing beyond expectations during Kabelano Charity Cup and the same performance will be expected of them in the new campaign. Gunners start the league with Township Rollers and it is likely to show their supporters what to expect. Believe it or not coaching Gunners come with pressure.


Read this week's paper