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Rollersâ’ finest hour

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BY KABELO GADISE BTC Premiership reigning champions Township Rollers face Sudanese giants El-Merrikh tonight at the El-Merrikh Stadium in the Sudanese capital Omdurman. Popa go into the CAF champion’s league game leading El-Merrikh 3-0 after a superb first leg game played in Gaborone a fortnight ago. However, the marauding Popa are set to face the unexpected in Omdurman when they enter 43 000 seater Al-Merrikh stadium. Proverbial sparks are bound to fly, as both teams will be seeking to advance to the next stage of the lucrative CAF African championship. The MmaMasire based outfit needs to match their rivals pound for pound. Nonetheless El- Merrikh is expected to mount pressure into the Rollers defense where cracks might surface.

The desperate Sudanese outfit will need to mount an end-to-end attack earlier in the game. However, mind games have already played out between the two sides and they will continuously roll until the last whistle. Logistical issues are said to have ensued with the hapless Popa at the receiving end. Nevertheless, Rollers have been on a great form and they will need both mental strength and nerves of steel to beat their rivals in a hostile and menacing environment. Lately, outspoken Mapalastina headcoach Nikola Kavazovic made bold statement after declaring his charges are slowly becoming African giants following their watershed 3-0 victory over the highly rated Sudanese side. Thus far, the spirit of fair play and hospitality seem to have flown out the window in Sudan and Popa needs to rise to the occasion outside their comfort zone.

The game is expected to be played under floodlights, which brings up the risk of the notorious laser beams being used against the unsuspecting Popa players, as it is a usual norm in both North and East Africa. Moreover, a combination of hostile match officials and unfair treatment from the hosting team is always on the cards in African states. Since their arrival on Monday, reports are that Popa have struggled to find a suitable training ground and this treatment is expected to prevail until the last whistle tonight (Wednesday). Tactically popa look stronger even though some feel they will be a sandwiched and pressed hard by a desperate El-Merrikh, a team that allegedly missed almost six of their key players in the first leg. Mapalastina will once more need to highlight their tactical maturity by shutting the back door with their usual backline of Tshepho Motlhabankwe and Edwin Olerile playing as wing backs while Simisane Mathumo and Mosha Gaolaolwe will be sweeping clean in the central of defense.

El-Merrikh liable to fall short in applying their aerial tactics and taking advantage of their God given size advantage. Kavazovic will be expecting his midfield to give the opponent the first ball and capitalize on the second ball. Reliable winger Joel Mogorosi will have a busy day having to unpin defenders out of their position with his movements focusing on the wide parts of the field, while defenders will be chasing behind Mogorosi, spaces will open up for the deadly trio of Segolame Boy, Motsholetsi Sikele and Edwin Moalosi. Moalosi however, remains doubtful to play due to a reported illness. Lemponye Tshireletso will be expected to rise to the occasion. El-Merrikh once the regulars of the CAF Champions League group stages now face what possibly looks as an early exit going into the second leg while Rollers sit on a healthy lead with the tide not possibly looking like turning around.

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Makwengwe promises fire and fury

Isaac Pheko

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ON A MISSION: Makwengwe

Gaborone United (GU)headcoach Philimon Makwengwe has sent a chilling message to his future opponents following a 0-1 loss to reigning BTC Premiership champions Township Rollers this past weekend.

A buoyant Makwengwe who is searching for at least two hungry strikers at GU declared that there will be nothing but misery in store for his future opponents. Following the closely contested Gaborone derby Makwengwe said:

“I have to improve in attack, I am not scoring goals, and I need to change my position on the log. I know the buzz was around the Gaborone Derby but that was never my concern. My team is currently in the red and I needed the points. I have to get out of the red and attacking my opponents is necessary”.

The unrelenting coach made it clear that Moyagoleele should not perform below their showing against Rollers last weekend. Makwengwe said the Money Machine will need to be “attack minded” in their next fixtures.

“What people should know is that Township Rollers have beaten me three times. They beat me twice back in 2012 during the Mascom Top 8. That was not the last time as they defeated me again at Prisons Airwick means this is now the fourth time.

The local tactician said losses to the Mma-Masire outfit should be a wake-up call for him. Nevertheless, Makwengwe said Rollers are the champions and one of the best teams not only in the country but the rest of the region.

“This is a team that gives a good brand of Botswana football. I am a champion myself, I am not a loser but I cannot beat Rollers alone.” Regarding the rest of the first round, Makwengwe said they will hit the ground running, I have no time to lament on negatives, I will not bemoan so many things.

My next opponents should stand in line and prepare to become victims.” The experienced coach said GU are a big brand and they should move away from where they are in the log standings. Losing 0-1 to a team like Rollers shows that we have to work on consistency.

The coach conceded the fact that he needs to make changes in his squad. I need about eight players including a fast winger on the left, I need a striker or two and these should be real strikers not people who play upfront.

Makwengwe said the current strikers at the team include a local who is a work in progress and a foreigner who is not giving enough to the team.“People want me to hide and I cannot, when you come into this country and you brush aside a local and even the labour law says you have to be better than them(locals), I bet in any profession.

If you want to play a striker for me, work harder.” The coach said he does not have an outright striker, which leaves a gap in the team. “A striker is somebody who pushes and is busy. If he doesn’t score himself, he has to use other players. It doesn’t matter if he is alone against four.”

Makwengwe said he needs two strikers to avoid changing the team too much. “In January, I am going into the market and I am going to buy. My next game is against Miscelleneous and they are coming down. I will have no mercy. Whoever comes I will have no mercy.”

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Old rivals faceoff

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BITTER RIVALS: Notwane Head coach Pio Paul

Notwane Football Club (Sechaba) and Mochudi Centre Chiefs (Magosi), are to battle it out in a potentially massive encounter as both clubs are coming from draws in their previous matches against Prisons IX and Black Forest respectively.

The clash is scheduled to take place at 4pm this Saturday at Molepolole Sports Complex.Sechaba, as Notwane is affectionately known were relegated back in 2015 while Magosi has been going through a financial crisis that hit the club recently.

Having played 9 games a piece, Notwane FC, currently on the 9th position in the BTC Premiership league log standings have won two, drew four and lost three games whereas Centre Chiefs who are occupying the 12th spot have won one, drew five and lost three games.

In a brief interview with Sun Sport this week, Notwane FC Public Relations Officer (PRO) Mogomotsi ‘Ace’ Orapeleng said, “We are going all out to win this fixture, taking nothing away from Centre Chiefs, we are not going to read much into what they have been going through lately hence our approach to the match will be of ‘great’ respect.

This past weekend we dropped a massive two points which could have made a difference against Prisons IX thus making us more desperate to collect three (3) points in this coming clash with Centre Chiefs,” he said.

Questioned about the anxiety brought by this particular contest he said: “Notwane FC and Mochudi Centre Chiefs are big brands of Botswana football, we are aware of the fact that the personnel have changed; new players, management and even sponsors but the ultimate truth is that these two have great following and most people are anxious to see how the events will turn out on the weekend,” said Orapeleng.

For his part, Mochudi Centre Chiefs Vice-Chairman, Clifford Mogomotsi confirmed their aim is to try and improve their position in the league log standings, “In every match we play, our approach is to always expand our position on the log, regardless of which team we play against. Notwane FC is a fantastic team but we are going to fight until the end to win the match,” said Mogomotsi.

Mogomotsi further pointed out that playing against Notwane FC has always been exulting, “Notwane FC has always given us entertaining football as we almost play a similar style of play,” said the Vice-Chairman.

On the possibility of losing points through the impending verdict after failure to honour their game against Miscellaneous a fortnight ago: “Our date with Botswana Premier League (BPL) Disciplinary Committee (DC) has been set, and we are awaiting that,” he explained.

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