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History made as Rollers march to CAF Group stages

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Township Rollers made history as they became the first Botswana side to book a place in the group stages of the CAF Champions League following a goalless draw with Tanzanian champions Young Africans (Yanga) at a second leg match played at a packed National Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Rollers came into the reverse fixture leading 2-1 from their shock victory in Yanga’s home ground a fortnight ago in Tanzania.

To win the tie and proceed to the next stage, Rollers needed a draw or for Yanga to win with a margin of one goal but with no more than two goals to their credit. Rollers achieved that as the Saturday result meant they proceed via a 2-1 aggregate score, ensuring they enter a gruelling stage where they will play six more matches in the competition across the continent against possible opponents in the mould of former champions TP Mazembe, Al Ahly and Mamelodi Sundowns a ong others.

Rollers’ captain Maano Ditshupo was ecstatic after the match, praising and giving gratitude to the multitudes of people who thronged the stadium to give them support. “They drove us, we had to fight hard not to disappoint them as they really gave us the necessary motivation,” he said after the match. Ditshupo added that they had achieved everything they had set out to achieve this season having vowed to win the Top 8 championship, and now entering the group stages of the champions league.

Similarly excited was the experienced Tshepo Talkie Motlhabankwe who described the victory as the best birthday present he could ever get. “Throughout the week I pushed my teammates, reminding them that March 17 is my birthday and that they have to ensure I enjoy my day,” Motlhabankwe said, adding that playing the group stages will give them more experience that will rub positively on the development of Botswana football. After the match, the Rollers players showered Motlhabankwe with all manner of confetti, ranging from potato chips to water, to mark their excitement for getting what he had called for.

Rollers will know their group stage opponents on Wednesday next week when the the draw will be conducted in Cairo. The group stages carry a minimum prize money of around P5 million. In the Saturday match, Rollers dominated proceedings from the start, bouyoed by the over 20 000 supporters who cut across the Botswana club divide. Yanga never really threatened the Rollers’ defence despite beefing up their team with five players who did not play in the first leg. Rollers’ goalkeeper Keeagile Kgosipula had a lonely match where he saw very little action on the day as his defence kept their opponents at bay. It was only in the 70th minute that Yanga threatened to score with their player Odrey Chirwa firing wide from close range when he only had Kgosipula to beat.

Ahead of the match on Friday, Rollers head coach Nikola Kavazovic had talked of the importance of the match, saying a positive result could ensure the local game gets to be tested against established continental giants.

“We are now definitely among the 20 best teams in Africa, we have defeated a top side in Al-Merreikh and in the first round we showed confidence in our game in Tanzania. I believe we deserve a place in the group stages and we will work for it. Yanga are African giants and we are still a developing team, but I believe we are now favourites to go through,” Kavazovic said.

“I am very proud of my players,” he added. “Whatever happens on Saturday, we have already done a lot, more than what was expected, more than what was achieved in the previous seasons. The second goal in the first leg against Yanga showed our model of play, our trademark. That goal was not just good by African standards…even by international, world standards it was good, 21 completed passes, one minute 40 seconds without Yanga having the ball and we scored. We will keep to our style,” Kavazovic added.

Yanga’s Assistant Coach Noel Mwandila had expressed confidence on Friday, that his Tanzanian side would prevail, owing to performances back at home. ‬
“After the Rollers game in Tanzania we played two league games where we scored three goals in each match, so I believe we have overcome the problem of not converting goals in the first leg. We will have one or two players not being available, but we also have our captain who did not feature in the first leg who is now available,” Mwandila said. However, things did not go according to plan for Yanga as Rollers bullied them throughout the match, with the likes of Joel Mogorosi, Mosha Gaolaolwe and Lemponye Tshireletso squandering clear chances.

Rollers had made two changes from their 2-1 first leg win over Yanga in Dar es Salaam with Edwin Moalosi and Edwin Olerile coming in for Kaone Vanderwesthuizen and the injured Mthokozisi Msomi. Other players who featured for Rollers include Simisani Mathumo, Motsholetsi Sikele and Segolame Boy.

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Netball regresses

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When successfully hosting of the 2017 Netball Youth World Cup (NYWC) this past year under the Tebogo Lebotse Sebego regime, Botswana netball team (Under 21) showcased a crème dela cream squad, boasting exceptional players such as Pearl Maribe, Sarona Hans, Florence Poane and Cheludo David, just to mention a few.

This left many people anticipating for a smooth transition to the senior team and continue with their impressive performances at elite stages. However, this has not been the case as the national team has been performing dismally, failing to book a spot at the 2018 Africa Netball World Cup back in August, which will be hosted in England, Liverpool next year.

Prior the 2018 Africa Netball World Cup qualifiers staged in Zambia, Botswana roped in a mentor from South Africa, Dorette Badenhorst who confidently said in an interview with Sun Sport before departing to Zambia with team, that the team was in good shape. The results, however did not show and the coach was gone.

In an interview with Sun Sport this week, Botswana Netball Association (BONA) Public Relations Officer (PRO) Theresa Hirchfeld explained why the international coach (Badenhorst) left immediately after the qualifiers, “We had no money to hire an international coach but we desperately needed one hence Spar came to our rescue to bring Dorette Badenhorst on board to help us specifically qualify for the 2019 Netball World Cup edition.

We had to part ways with her because we did not have funds to continue with her,” she explained. According to BONA PRO, the continued absence of the domestic league can be pointed as the main reason why the national team has not been performing well recently, “We do not have a league running at the moment, hence resorting to meeting only on weekends in preparation for important tournaments.

However, I think we did fairly well at the just ended Diamond Challenge tournament held in South Africa looking at the fact that we were not able to go with our full squad due to Police Department events that hindered the selection of players from the Police side,” said the BONA PRO.

The 2018 Diamond Challenge Netball tournament in South Africa, Limpopo was played by Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa’s president XII. The local team did not fare well as they lost most of the games they played, but only managed to salvage one consolation win.

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Knockout Football tournament returns

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The thrills, spills and high stakes of knock out football have returned to the local scene following the announcement of the new Orange FA Cup.

The mobile telecommunication company announced a P12.6 million, three-year deal that will see over 30 teams competing for the first prize of P700 000.After years of FA cup drought since the much-loved Coca Cola cup, 48 teams from the BTC Premiership, Debswana National First Division (DNFD) and regions are expected to slug it out for honour and glory in the newly introduced tournament scheduled for 2019. Addressing members of the media and other football stakeholders in Gaborone this week, BFA President Maclean Letshwiti said sponsorship remains a challenge to local football and other sporting codes.

“I am excited that the regions will finally get a platform to have an event which they can look forward to, with the prospect of generating income,” Letshwiti said. “Sponsorship is key to football as this is how our industry can grow and change the lives of footballers. When we crafted this sponsorship, we wanted an arrangement that can assist regional teams.” Letshwiti said Orange Botswana is no stranger to football as the company has been in football before and they are currently proud sponsors of CAF.

“A platform like the FA Cup offers a great -opportunity for all our league and structure to be scouted and seen by national team coaches across the board. We also now get an opportunity to close the gap between our leagues and increase competition for participation or qualification into the cup.”

Speaking during the same occasion, the Orange Botswana Chief Executive Officer Dr Patrick Benon said the sponsorship will be approximately P4.2 million per football season for a total of three seasons.

“This initiative demonstrates Orange Botswana’s strategy to cultivate talent and support local sports development in line with previous sponsorships like the Kabelano Charity Cup, the Orange Phikwe National Marathon and also the official Zebras National team sponsorship ahead of the historic appearance at the AFCON finals in 2012,” he said. Through these sponsorships, Benon said they have realised the significance of sport activities beyond entertainment.

“It is also about uniting communities, strengthening relationships and supporting activities. The sponsorship by Orange will cover prize money, individual awards, team kits, tournament administration fees and travelling, to name a few.” The competitions will kick off with eight teams from both the DNFD north and south. The first round will also include 16 regional teams. The second round will include 16 winners from the first round and 16 BTC Premiership teams. The second round is expected to produce the last 16 teams who will proceed to the quarter finals.

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