It’s that time of the year again when local football supporters embark on an annual pilgrimage to the Francistown Sports Complex where two deserving teams will take centre stage during the Mascom Top 8 Final. Both Gaborone United (GU)and Jwaneng Galaxy return to the finals, the former looking to win an astounding third title while Galaxy will be in search of their second title in three years.
Despite GU or the Money Machine as it is known sitting on position 7th on the BTC Premiership Table, they are tipped as the favourites to win this prestigious trophy. With a wealth of experience in the team and their big match temperament, GU can go all the way and write the history books by being the first club to win three Mascom Top 8 titles.
Gaborone United gaffer Philemon Makhwengwe will have to be up to his best, saturated with smart tactics and soothing combinations of play, with industrious players like Jerome Ramatlhakwana, Dirang Moloi, Gaopatwe Seosenyeng, Thatayaone Kgamanyane and Goitseone Phoko guarding the sticks. Makhwengwe is likely to pack his rich midfield with the likes of Rentse Keakabetse, captain Alphonse Modisaotsile, Obonywe Maome and Gaopatwe Seosenyeng to kill the mobility of Jwaneng Galaxy and limit spaces behind the defense.
Dirang Moloi and Thatayone Kgamayane are expected to play behind Jerome Ramatlhakwane as supporting strikers as Makhwengwe will also enjoy adding for power in his attack, the two players are expected to put through Ramatlhakwana, whose goal scoring prowess is second to none. On the other hand, Jwaneng Galaxy is a club enjoying a very good run of form, the Jwaneng based outfits are currently challenging for BTC Premiership honors and the Mascom Top 8 title; as things stand they will not be a walk in the park.
Miguel Da Costa will carry his troops to battle on Saturday night and will definitely bring his finest mind to the game, his unsurpassed tactics will also boil down in the technical area, the coach has proven to be an all-out attacker with a cautious mindset so expectation are he will have Lebogang Ditsele guarding and working closely to the four men defense while the pondering captain Olebogeng Malebye is unleashed for attacking and defending duties.
Galaxy will depend on Gilbert Baruti and Thero Setsile to unlock the GU defensive line with skill and pace on the flanks, should the two not be up to task Gift Moyo can always come on to rescue the day. Patrick Kaunda will have to be on his toes holding the ball for the oncoming attackers and fending off defenders every moment.
Tebogo Sembowa remains to be a lucky charm in the tournament having played four finals and winning them all, Galaxy will count him as their lucky charm as the player looks to add his fifth Mascom Top 8 medal this weekend. One player that Galaxy will pin their hopes on is the lanky short stopper, Ezikiel Morake who has enjoyed his game in this tournament.
Morake is capable of winning the game for his side, with his admirable reflexes and his ability to make key long ball passes to his strikers. Morake can also be vital when his defense is caught napping, the goal minder is a one on one specialist who knows how to spread his body when facing a striker.
Volleyball coach explains selection of national team
Botswana Volleyball Federation (BVF) national team coach Kabo Ntshinogang says winning a league performance award does not guarantee national team call up.
Ntshinogang was responding to complaints made by some players recently that the national team squad is decided on favoritism and not merit. To their surprise, some players that were honored for exceptional play in the 2018 Mascom league were missing from the preliminary national team list that was released by the federation recently. The national team is preparing for the All Africa games qualifiers to be held in Mozambique later this month.
“Yes it is true, not all who were honored by Mascom last year made it into the team. Winning an award does not book a seat in the national team, a lot of things go into being selected as national team material,” Ntshinogang said this week.
The coach in charge of the ladies’ team explained that in some instances, a player can score many points in one particular game while a more talented player might have been absent on the day.
That, he said could make other talented players fail to collect points and catch up, as every game is different.
“We use the league to gauge performance however, we can never all agree on who is best suited a place in the national team. Difference in opinions will always come in and perhaps provide a healthy debate,” the coach said.
Ntshinogang added that if he indeed used favoritism to pick his team then his side of Mafolofolo Club would be dominating the list. Nevertheless, Kutlwano players are the ones with a large number of players at national team level. On the men side, assistant coach Kealeboga Mmekwane said that contrary to negative reports he came across, Kesaobaka Lenkopane of BDF XI, who was the 2018 league best setter has been invited to training but has not showed up yet.
“He was omitted from the list yes but we have since contacted his coach that the player should join the national team during training,” he said. Mmekwane continued to note that another omitted name was Meffery Chindumbo who is a foreigner and could not be called for national team duty. He revealed that they look into matters such as height, skill and the defence ability when they select their preferred team.
He explained that it was hard picking names and they were forced to rely on past experiences. “There is no league and we had to think hard to come up with a competitive team,” he said. For their first training, Mmekwane noted that the players are all a bit rusty as they are returning from a long break, saying some have even gained weight. He however expressed confidence that they will qualify for the games as they have over the years established themselves as a powerhouse in the region.
Marape increases Botswana’s medal tally
Women Fide Master (WFM) Naledi Marape dazzled at the just ended Zone 4.3 championships held in Madagascar. She brought home a bronze medal.
The 2019 edition was the young Marape’s second zonal competition having finished on 5th position in Mozambique last year. Nevertheless, she emerged all hell bent to leave an impressive mark in Madagascar as she defeated highly ranked players to increase Botswana ‘s medal tally.
Marape emulated winning ways of Women International Master (WIM) Onkemetse Francis who finished in second position, grabbing a silver medal. Francis returned to the Chessboard following a short break from the game, itching to defend her 2018 bronze medal. She would however go up the ranks and give way for the developing star that is Marape.
It seems Marape drew inspiration from the experienced side of Francis and rightly put her foot down. The Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) spokesperson Kutlwano Tatolo explained that Marape is actually chasing her first Olympiad appearance next year.
“She has been doing well and one of the best youth players, however, competition is very stiff and she will need to work extra hard to improve her game,” she said. Tatolo described Marape as a player still full of energy and thirsty for success saying her level of growth in the game was promising.
However, Marape began the year on a low note and actually lost out on forming part of the ten Metropolitan Championships ladies’ finalists, thus the urge to keep busy drove her to international excellence.
The BCF had sent only one female representative to Madagascar however, Marape and another youth side in Women Candidate Master (WCM) Natalie Banda sponsored themselves to attend the zonal competition. Banda, who was making a debut at the tournament, finished in an impressive 8th position and she was given a trophy for being the youngest participant at the tournament.
Meanwhile, Fide Master (FM) Phemelo Khetho who recently won the Metropolitan championship failed to defend his 2018 silver medal in the open section but instead dropped to position 13.
His counterpart International Master (IM) Providence Oatlhotse, finished on the 6th place.
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