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MAKWALA FINALLY TAKES GOLD

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BY ISAAC PHEKO Botswana’s 400m sensation Isaac Makwala is no longer an underdog. Makwala won gold and made a telling statement when he finally won in dominant fashion at the ongoing 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia this past Tuesday. The muscle-bound runner blitzed the 400m final with a scorching 44.35 sec beating compatriot Baboloki Thebe who came in second place at 45.09 sec. Walking down tunnel at the arena moments before the race Makwala gave away a lot in terms of body language and facial expression. Usually calm in his demeanour, the runner looked a little nervous seemingly murmuring something to himself and tampering with his trade mark arm sleeve.

Little did he know that he was to run a race defining his career. Powering out of the block when the race started, Badman immediately made his intensions clear and he left all his rivals behind as he kept his momentum until he finished the middle-distance final. For years, Makwala has been written off as just another gatekeeper, a journeyman who frequently finishes out of the podium. Having been a top athlete for the better part of the past decade, Badman saw young athletes emerging and frequently eclipsing his then mediocre career. The likes of Nijel Amos, Karabo Sibanda and Baboloki Thebe came from behind and were quickly revered as future star while the Tutume native was seemingly in the last legs of his unremarkable running career.

Perhaps one of the lowest chapters in Makwala’s career was when upstarts Baboloki Thebe and Karabo Sibanda beat Makwala to became African Champion 400m champions just over two years ago. Thebe’s compatriot Karabo Sibanda took silver in 400m at the Africa Championship held in Durban South Africa. Back then, the mediocre runner from Tutume was used as a measuring stick by young athletes moving up the ranks. If they beat Makwala, they knew they were on to bigger things. Nevertheless, two years down the line Makwala’s career took a completely different turn. Like vintage fine wine, Makwala seems to have mellowed with time. As the 2016 Rio Olympic games approached Makwala’s career started to gain serious traction, as the 30-year-old runner suddenly found his speed. Rugged, muscular and focused Makwala seems to have eluded injuries that have been stalling the career of less fortunate athletes. When the 2016 Olympics came around, Makwala did not bring any medals back home. Team Botswana seemed to have been lost in the midst of fast super stars like Wayde Van Nierkerk of SA and Kirani James of Grenada.

Following the Olympics, Makwala’s speed continued to impress leading up to the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London. When he arrived in London, Makwala knew very little that destiny awaited him. Before competing in one of the preliminary races the on-form athletes were excluded from one of the preliminary heats following a nuro virus outbreak at the athlete’s village. A media storm surrounding the athlete quickly formed with fingers being pointed at biased IAAF officials. What followed the controversial decision was sensational as Makwala was allowed to embark on a solo run that would be broadcast live, around the world and made the runner a house hold name overnight. Once again both Makwala and his team mates failed to bring home any medals from the World Championships in London. Nevertheless, Makwala was given a hero’s welcome and gained worldwide prominence.

Earlier this week, Makwala’s celebrity status was elevated once again when he won gold in dominant fashion at the ongoing Games in Australia. Makwala and Thebe ended a four-year international medal drought in Botswana. However, the Badman is not yet done in the Gold Coast as his multitudes of supporters will be waiting with bated breath to see him grab another medal during the 4x400m relay event. The 4x400m relay team including Karabo Sibanda, Onkabetse Nkobolo and Baboloki Thebe will receive a major boost with when they take to the track. Makwala joins an elite club of Commonwealth gold medal winners including Nijel Amos and Amantle Montsho. This week, the man credited with discovering Makwala, Zibane Molopo said he was not surprised Makwala took gold at the Commonwealth.

A lecturer at Msawzwi brigade where Makwala studied carpentry, Molopo said his protégé ran a great race. “His body language was telling before the race as he seemed nervous. He was not relaxed at all. He is usually seated during the introductory walk but this time he seemed to be speaking or praying before the race,” Molopo said. “He seemed to have marked the Indian runner Muhammad Yahiya and did fairly well from the starting block. Once he hit the groove he focused on endurance in the first two hundred metres.” Molopo said his protégé seemed to be powering towards the finish in the last 50m of the race. “You could see that he was not even tired after the race. He focused on the screen and did not look for rivals on the sides.” According to Molopo Makwala’s age is not a factor. Age is nothing but a number and we are expecting him to stay competitive for the next two years provided he takes care of himself.

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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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