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.
Local hockey body to incur massive financial loss post Covid-19
Botswana Hockey Association (BHA) President Unaswi Matebu has confessed that her Association will suffer major financial losses post the Covid 19 pandemic that has left the sport fraternity at a standstill.
Matebu recently told this publication that the current situation does not only have tremendous effects on their schedule, but also there will be financial implications more especially that the association does not have full time sponsors.
“We had to cancel most of our calendar activities such as tournaments, national team trainings, Board meetings, and club activities since mid-March this year, all of which have cost us money to prepare for,” Matebu remarked in an interview.
Additionally she said the planning phase for their 5-year Development Plan which was supposed to be launched in June will have to be postponed. Also there are national competitions that were postponed till further notice despite them having already set up teams and having already started preparing.
“Our Indoor Hockey Senior National teams had already started preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations – a World Cup qualifier – that was supposed to be held in June, 2020, in South Africa. Our Field Hockey Senior National teams had already begun preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers that were supposed to be held in August, 2020 in Zimbabwe,” she added.
Moreover, it was going to be an excessively detailed and decorated year for local hockey governing body, with the Youth National teams having already began preparations for the Africa Youth Championships that were billed for September, 2020, in Ghana.
“Player conditioning has obviously been affected because athletes are currently not training as planned and what we had achieved so far might go to waste. We are only hoping that the Continental and World Hockey governing bodies will give us enough time to prepare for these competitions post the pandemic.”
BFA will not declare the season null and void – yet
Amidst wide spreading fears that Botswana’s top flight league might be canceled and considered null and void because of the crippling Covid-19 pandemic, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) has yet to make a determination on the matter and has in fact ruled out scrapping off the season altogether.
Local football observers and pundits alike have already started talking of the possibilities after similar considerations of nullifying their seasons were made in the leagues of other countries especially in Europe. No football activity has taken place in the country since social distancing measures were imposed to avoid the spread of the corona virus.
Local football pundit Fabian Zulu is one of those who believe there is a likelihood the football season will be nullified. “If the current situation persists, then there is a high possibility of declaring the league null and void. This situation wasn’t planned, no one knew that by now we would be facing this kind of situation; so the possibility is very high.
However, in an interview this week, BFA spokesperson Tumo Mpatane said the association has not considered canceling and nullifying the season as an option yet, adding that “currently we are observing a period of extreme social distancing, the ministry of health and wellness will obviously give advice on the possibility of getting back to football.”
Consequently the BFA still awaits the Ministry to declare that the risks of spreading the virus are reduced and come up with a contingency plan. “If the ministry says there is a reduced health risk we will play out the season; if they advise against it we will then see what steps to take. The health of our players is more important and we will be guided by the responsive authorities,” Mpatane remarked.
However, suspension or cancellation of the leagues across the world seems inevitable even as some European leagues, more specifically the English Premier League, are now contemplating a behind-closed-doors campaign to finish off the remaining matches.