Rollers wrap up Botswana league title in fine style
By Bakang Mhaladi
GABORONE – Township Rollers battled bereavement and a late slump in form to grab their second consecutive league title and 14th overall after a 2-0 shellacking of resilient new comers, Black Forest last weekend.
It had all appeared set for a nail biting finish to the season, with what was billed as the title decider between Rollers and second placed, Jwaneng Galaxy at the weekend.
But that has fizzled into a dead rubber after Galaxy failed to keep pace with Rollers, going down 3-1 to Gaborone United in a must win game that would have kept them in the picture.
However, while Rollers are on cloud nine after cementing their place as Botswana finest, it is not all gloom and doom for Galaxy who finish second in the league and bagged the Mascom Top 8 trophy on debut appearance.
Rollers coach, Mogomotsi ‘Teenage’ Mpote, meanwhile created a piece of history when he became the first local football coach in more than a decade to win the league title. Police XI’s Sthandwa Mogwadi was the last local to win the league title in 2006 as the foreign legion has been dominant since then.
Mpote replaced Briton, Mark Harrison midway through the season and finished the league unbeaten although Rollers appeared to stutter with a number of draws towards the finish line.
When they could only manage a draw against relegation threatened Nico United the previous weekend, many thought this was Galaxy’s year as the two were neck-to-neck going into the penultimate weekend.
There was still the unfinished business of the top of the table clash on the final day.
This presented a mouth-watering prospect for the fans, but the appetizing moment was turned sour when Gaborone United emerged as the ultimate party spoilers after drubbing Galaxy 3-1 in Jwaneng. In Gaborone, Rollers spent the better part of the afternoon pawing a fighting Black Forest, to confirm their title.
Rollers players immediately dedicated the win to the late attacking midfielder, Gofaone ‘The President’ Tiro, who passed away a fortnight ago.
“This is for you Tiro,” Rollers captain, Maano Ditshupo said after the game. Coach, Mpote felt local coaches deserve more chances after his title winning feat.
“I can only urge the management of various clubs to give Batswana coaches a chance. I believe we have what it takes, although we have room to improve. We can only get better if given the chance,” Mpote told journalists.
“I thank the players for executing our game plan on the day and ofr the effort they put in throughout the season. We worked hard and deserved the title,” he said.
The coach would look to reshuffle his pack when they take on Galaxy in an inconsequential tie on the final day of the season, with fringe players expected to get game time.
The new champions, who are on 63 points from 29 games, will be presented with the trophy and a P1million cheque after their last match against Galaxy at the National Stadium on Saturday.
Galaxy finish second and pocket P500,000 while Orapa United, despite going down 1-0 to Mochudi Centre Chiefs, are assured of third. Extension Gunners, Gaborone United, Security Systems, Black Forest and Chiefs complete the top eight.
At the bottom, the third and final relegation spot is still up for grabs after Nico United refused to step down with a 3-1 win Sankoyo Bush Bucks.