Botswana’s troubled Chiefs on the brink
By Bakang Mhaladi
GABORONE – Since 2009, the Botswana Premier League title has rotated between two teams, Township Rollers and Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
They have been the undoubted dominant forces but the end appears near for the other. Chiefs are on the verge of capitulation after a horrendous season which has left them ninth and facing the real prospects of finishing outside the top three for the first time in a decade.
Chiefs have faced a torturous period, particularly since the beginning of the year which has been marked by pronounced financial problems. A club that used to pull the crowds now finds itself battling to keep pace with players’ salaries, which are now three months in arrears.
The club had made a bold statement of intent, with big name signings in January, which landed striker, Jerome Ramatlhakwana, Namibian, Absalom Limbondi and Zimbabwean attacker, Tendai Nyamadzawo.
The attacking trident could easily pass as the best in the BTC Premiership, but has not been afforded the right space to fire due to heightening boardroom challenges.
On Sunday, Chiefs sunk to a new low after they almost failed to fulfil their fixture against Extension Gunners in Lobatse, just 75km from their base.
Chiefs players had vowed not to play the match until their dues are cleared, but it took the intervention of coach, Bongani Mafu to persuade the team to travel to Lobatse.
They arrived 30minutes late for their scheduled 3:30pm kick-off and claimed their bus had broken down along the way.
But players, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Southern Times that the issue was unpaid salaries and not the ‘breakdown story.’
“Players wanted at least one month’s salary before playing Gunners. With five games to go, they feel the management is stalling until the end of the season where they wont be called to account. They are just buying time. The last time we received something, which was part payment, was in January, and since then we have received nothing but unfulfilled promises,” the player said before the Gunners game.
Gunners did not show mercy to the late comers, beating Chiefs 2-0 to leave the former champions outside the top eight with four games remaining in the campaign.
Mafu chose to focus on the on field matters in his post-match interview.
“We tried our best. We missed a number of chances which could have changed the complexion of the game,” he said.
The coach, who arrived from Zimbabwe at the start of the season, would feel shortchanged as he has never been allowed to handle the team without disruptions. Training sessions are far and few between, and on the odd moment that they train, some senior players prefer to stay away leaving the coach to do with mostly young and upcoming talent.
In other league matches over the weekend, Jwaneng Galaxy failed to take advantage of grieving Township Rollers’ inactivity, as they blew a two goal lead to settle for a 2-2 draw against impressive rookies, Black Forest.
The draw saw Galaxy open a four point lead, but critically, Rollers have two games in hand with the season firmly on the home straight.
Madinda Ndlovu’s Orapa United cemented third place with a 2-1 win over Miscellaneous in a temptous affair which saw referee, Kutlwano Leso escorted from the venue as losing home team fans felt the match official had denied their side two ‘clear’ penalties.