By Bakang Mhladi
GABORONE – EVEN when it appeared easier to progress than exit, Mochudi Centre Chiefs have always found the Mascom Top 8 cup unforgiving.
It is now six editions and one of Botswana’s glamour clubs’ knockout trophy count reads zero.
It is a depressing situation for a club that has been brutal in its dominance, together with Township Rollers, of the local league.
However, it has been a different story in the country’s premier cup competition, which carries a handsome P1.2 million prize money.
The best Chiefs has managed has been an agonising exit in the semi-finals. This season, just two games into the sixth edition, Chiefs’ chase for the Holy Grail has ended in the usual agony and the team’s stars have joined the fans to watch the rest of the tournament from the terraces.
It has always been a bitter but regular pill to swallow for Magosi and its hordes of supporters. The dose of disappointment has been unrelenting.
What makes the pain more excruciating is the progress made by their rivals, Rollers.
On Sunday, expectations were high that Chiefs will progress at the expense of expensively assembled but underachieving Jwaneng Galaxy.
The first leg of the quarter-final had ended in a drab 0-0 draw, leaving all to play for in the diamond-rich town.
Chiefs made the short 150km trip to Jwaneng with their spirits on new levels after they had cantered to their first BTC Premiership win the previous weekend, with a 4-0 shellacking of newsboys, Mahalapye United Hotspurs.
Galaxy, on the other hand, were downbeat after a horrendous start to the season left them just one position short of anchoring the log.
The mood in Jwaneng was depressed for the hosts and was almost further compounded when Chiefs made a bright start.
Stanley Ngala was sent clean through in the eighth minute but scuffed his effort with only goalkeeper, Antony Gouws, to beat, which left the tie still delicately poised at 0-0. It appeared an ominous warning.
But the bitter memories of a poor start to the season and Galaxy’s underdog tag were to be banished just 22 minutes into the tie. Former Chiefs player, Sekhana ‘Nandos’ Koko, at 33, rolled back the years with a glorious run before he applied the finish, although Tebogo Sembowa appeared to have the final touch.
Galaxy were up and running and suddenly Chiefs had to chase the game. They shifted a gear up but were cruelly pegged back when a horror tackle from defender, Thato Kebue, meant a premature end to Koko’s afternoon just before the break.
Referee Lekgotla Johannes reached his pocket and it was the end of Kebue, and, to a significant extent, Chiefs’ run in the cup.
Galaxy was to emphatically confirm Chiefs’ exit in stunning fashion in the 76th minute when midfielder Olebogeng Malebye drove home a beauty.
A sense of de javu blasted through the immaculate Galaxy Stadium; it was a horror movie the Chiefs fans have watched on countless occasions over the seasons with the same flattening conclusion. Dejection was palpable.
“The Top 8 is gone. We had sufficient chances to win the match. I am glad we gave youngsters the opportunity to play despite the defeat,” Chiefs coach, Bongani Mafu, said after the familiar defeat.
At the start of the tournament, Chiefs spokesperson, Clifford Mogomotsi, had hoped for a change in fortunes this time around. But that air of optimism was nonchalantly punctured in the sweltering heat in Jwaneng.
The mangled wreck was quite familiar and confirmed that Chiefs, despite their undisputed position as a Botswana football giant, are not yet tailormade for the Mascom Top 8 cup.
In other matches, defending champions, Orapa United progressed on away goals rule after they finished deadlocked 1-1 with Miscellaneous. BDF XI, already with a firm foot forward going into the second leg, finished off former champions, Gaborone United 4-2 on aggregate after a 1-1 stalemate in Molepolole on Saturday.