Friday, January 22, 2021

Will GU supporters ever come back?

There might be no official statistics for verification purpose, but undoubtedly, Township Rollers and Extension Gunners are the most followed teams in the country.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding them, the teams always have their supporters behind them. A few seasons ago, Township Rollers spent almost two seasons in the First Division, but the supporters always followed their team until it bounced back to the Premier League where the support base even grew tremendously, especially amongst the youth.

Gunners, on the other hand, spent almost a decade languishing in the relegation zone, but that did not deter their supporters who have always been there in their numbers. When Gunners won a game or two in succession, the supporters would even come in their droves.

Also Francistown-based side, Tafic is one team that never easily has its support base adversely affected. They rarely win big tournaments and struggle to attract sponsorships, but supporters are always there regardless where the game is being played, home or away.

The situation is, however, different for one of Botswana’s oldest teams, the once largely followed and popular Gaborone United (GU). By the time the team got relegated about eight years ago, the supporters dwindled.

In the First Division, the supporters still backed off the team as only a few attended the games. It took ‘Moyagoleele,’ as the team is affectionately branded by its loyal supporters, half a decade to come back, but the supporters still are coming in despicable numbers.

What is even more surprising is the fact that the team is in its fourth season since bouncing back from the lower division and they have been doing exceptionally well.

In their first season GU managed to absorb the Premier League pressure and survived. In the second season, they finished in the top four and last season was one of their best when they finished as runners ups to the eventual champions, Mochudi Centre Chiefs.

In their first game this season, GU has already sent a strong message that they will be a team to watch this season. They defeated Notwane 3-1 in their opening game of the league.

GU are also one of the few teams that have assembled a strong team, from the back to the striking force, but their supporters’ attendance is still leaves a lot to be desired.

One would have expected to see the team supporters coming in their numbers, especially that there is so much competition since no player is guaranteed a place in the team and each player has to sweat for his shirt.

Former long serving team official, Keemenao Tsie, admits that their support base has dwindled tremendously. He said the relegation of the team to the lower division is the worst contributing factor.
“Most of the supporters who still follow the team now are the ones that were with the team in the lower division and others are no where to be seen. The situation is worrying because it would be difficult for us to attract sponsorships. It is so sad looking at how the team has been doing for the past three years but supporters are not coming,” he said. Tsie also said most of the supporters are finding it difficult to be convinced to come back mainly because of the politics associated with the community teams and added that others just want to see the team winning something and that is when they would come proudly wearing their red t-shirts.

Tsie, however, said the team is working on strategies to bring their supporters back and even attract new ones.

“We are looking at a variety of ways because we cannot just sit and do nothing while other teams command such large followings. Some of the ways we are looking at is reducing the ticket prices for our card carrying supporters and that on its own would entice more soccer loving people to join our team,” he said.

Tsie also added that some of their initiatives are to conduct road shows to sell the team to the nation and even give reduced traveling prices to their supporters for away games.

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