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.
Local boxers ready for regional tourney
Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) this past Tuesday officially unveiled a Local Organising Committee (LOC) that has been tasked with preparing for the upcoming Zone 4 championships that are to be held in Botswana.
The team is headed by celebrated boxing legend France Mabiletsa and is expected to host more than seven countries that are expected to descend in Botswana in the next two weeks. Officiating at the event, Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) Vice Chairperson Tsoseletso Magang said that BoBA officials should refrain from interfering with the task given to the LOC. She noted that many sporting codes often give the LOC the responsibility of delivering an event only for the code members to bully themselves into the affairs of the LOC and disrupts the preparations.
Magang warned that there is little time left before the tournament, and with that, the LOC will need all the support to ensure they deliver a successful event. She noted that hosting the regional tournament gave Botswana an upper hand of fielding more athletes that will have an opportunity to qualify for the Africa Championships scheduled for later this year.
For his part, Mabiletsa noted that they have already hit the ground running and confident that the event will be a success. The competition will be hosted in Botho College and they are in talks with Ave Maria to accommodate athletes. “Life will be made much easier for athletes if they are accommodated at Ave Maria because it is closer to the competition venue,” he said.
He explained that the zone is made up of 12 countries of Lesotho, Angola, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe among others. However as of this past Tuesday, only seven had confirmed participation and they expect to finalize the logistics by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, a formidable national boxing team of eight men captained by Mmusie Tswiiige (60kg) and three ladies led by Lethabo Modukanele (48kg) will represent the country at the regional tournament.
According to the Head coach Lechedzani ‘Master’ Luza, the team has been on camp for the past three weeks. In his opinion, the team is ready to compete. “Generally, they are not bad, we need to work on a few things such as power and speed on some boxers, the defence department is also not bad,” he said.
Luza noted that Botswana has always established herself as a powerhouse and there is no doubt that majority, if not all team Botswana members will win a medal during competition time. He explained that the competition was one of the many leading to Tokyo 2020 Olympics and will give local boxers an opportunity to qualify for the Olympics.
Branch does it again
Local motorcycle racing sensation Ross Branch has continued his stellar form after securing overall second position in the internationally renowned Merzouga Rally. The race came to a conclusion this past weekend and Branch has proven his mettle amongst some of the best rally motorcyclists in the world.
The podium finish is expected to take the Dakar Rally racer to even greater heights in the hugely competitive and expensive sport. It has been barely two months since the talented local rider emerged as a top class racer at the Dakar Rally where he finished 13 and walked away with the fastest rookie of the 10 000 km odyssey.
At Merzouga, things seemed a little better for the rider as the terrain offer sand and rock as opposed to the treacherous dunes in Dakar. Branch who was using a different navigation system in Morocco showed his pace after winning the fourth stage of the race last week Thursday.
Prior to his podium finish Branch said Merzouga was only his second rally and he was willing to learn from some of the top riders in the sport. The KTM 450cc rider said he was now setting his sights on other major races including the 2020 Dakar Rally that has been confirmed for Saudi Arabia.
Since returning from the Dakar, Ross has stayed busy and competed at the cross-country championship in Kwazulu Natal in South Africa, where he finished fourth. The local rider is expected to compete at the upcoming 1000 km Toyota Desert Race, an event he has won more than seven times.
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