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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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Zapata takes charge

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TAKING CHARGE: Zapata assumes his position

Township Rollers Head Coach Rodolfo Zapata was this past Tuesday in charge of the team’s training session, a first since he was appointed Rollers coach in November 2018.

Sun Sports has been reliably informed by sources that were present at the morning session that the Argentine coach was at the grounds and it was all clear that he is now the man in control of the team.

Zapata was made to jump through hoops before he could finally take over the reins at Rollers. First he had to battle with his former club, Gaborone United to cancel his active working permit with the team. The matter dragged for more than a month.

When GU finally gave in, Zapata’s qualifications as a coach were questioned. This came as shocking given that Zapata is GU’s former coach. Nevertheless, a source within Botswana Football Association (BFA) circles has told this paper that Zapata was cleared by CAF last week. As things stand Zapata will be expected on the bench this coming Friday when they play Notwane. If not, then his first job will be the Mascom Top 8 Semi-final against GU next week.

The Rollers management could not be reached yesterday as their phones rang unanswered and repeated efforts revealed that the team spokesperson, Bafana Pheto is currently across borders.
Meanwhile, Zapata’s arrival comes at a crucial time following Rollers ‘s embarrassing defeat to the hands of rivals Jwaneng Galaxy this past weekend. Galaxy cut short the endless winning streak of the defending championships to serve them their second loss since the beginning of the league with a score line of 3-1.

Of late , unconfirmed reports suggest that players had grown impatient with the caretaker coach, Thabo Motang. They differed and questioned his decisions on the pitch. Motang is now reported to have gone back to the department he knows best, goalkeeper coach.

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Moluba wants a replica of previous success

Tshepo Kehemile

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PLAY MAKER: Moalosi is a prolific goal scorer

Township Rollers influential midfielder, Edwin Moalosi confirmed his ambitions to help his team to repeat their run in the previous season to win both Botswana Telecommunication (BTC) Premiership league and the Mascom Top 8. Moluba as he is affectionately known said this after their 3-1 loss to Jwaneng Galaxy at the National Stadium this past Saturday.

Rollers 2018/19 BTC league campaign have been impressive thus far as they are still at the summit of the log despite their loss over the weekend. The Galaxy loss was their second, having lost to the other mining team, Orapa United. However, they have already reached the semi-finals of the Mascom Top 8.

Moalosi told Sun Sport that this season is not going to be a walk in the path, “It is not easy being the defending Champions as you become the team to beat, every team will try hard not to give you space to play or attack hence all the games we play become a mammoth task,” said Moalosi.

Moalosi further stated that being eliminated from the Confederations of African Football (CAF) Champions league early was a blessing in disguise, “We are now out of the CAF Champions league and we can now focus on doing well in the domestic league and cup tournament (Mascom Top 8).

In addition, we need to double our efforts as players so that we reach our ultimate goals,” he said.
Quizzed about his individual goals as a player despite picking so many injuries this season, he said, “Injuries are part of the game, it only depends on every player as to how you respond to it, I am always positive regardless of the circumstances I come across. I want to increase my goal tally and hopefully improve my assists as well,” explained.

However, Jwaneng Galaxy Captain, Olebogeng Malebye who scored a marvellous curler on the day said they are going to give Rollers a run for their money this season, “We are going to fight to death to try and leapfrog Rollers and eventually win the league as it has been our aim for a long time. And finally, we managed to beat them after a very long time trying with no success,” said Malebye.

Jwaneng Galaxy’s season is slowly improving as they are now second on the log, and Orapa United seems to be struggling a bit but the league is still open. Another round of BTC Premiership league matches is expected to continue this coming weekend with a couple of interesting fixtures to look out to including Township Rollers and Notwane FC on Friday at Molepolole and Security Systems and Mochudi Centre Chiefs on Saturday at the same venue, just to mention a few.

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