A dark day for the greens

Portia Mlilo
RELEGATED: Ecco City Greens

The demise of Mamoja diskie

13 years after they won the Premier League, Francistown City Greens – formerly Ecco City Greens – have been relegated to the Second Division.

With just four games left to play and survival still a distinct possibility, Mamoja Diskie’s fate was sealed on Sunday when the Botswana Football Association (BFA) announced that due to Covid-19 all domestic action was finished for the season.

Rather than declare the local leagues null and void, the BFA ruled the divisions would be considered complete according to their current standings.

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Bottom of an incredibly tight First Division North, in which just three points separated the last six teams, the decision spelled doom for the Greens.

Along with another Francistown-based side, Great North Tigers and Tonota FC – who relegated on goal difference – Mamoja Diskie will now line up in the third tier of Botswana football.

It is a devastating new low for a club that have enjoyed unlikely success since the turn of the century.

City Greens stunned the country in 2003 when as a relatively unknown First Division side they stormed to the semi-final of the Coca Cola cup.

The remarkable cup run proved the start of the glory years for Ecco.

Two years later, Mamoja gained promotion to the Premier League, cementing their first season in the top flight with a top-eight finish.

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The foundations had been laid for the fairytale story of Botswana football, which, 13 years later, remains unrivaled.

In 2007, City Greens defied the odds, becoming the first – and to date only – team from the north to win the Premier League, clinching the coveted trophy with two games to spare.

Boasting players such as Malepa Bolelang, Zecco Makafiri, Nicholas Matlhare, Mandlaenkosi Sibanda, Michael Onkutule, Patrick Lenyeletse, and Gaboratanelwe Kgosietsile among others, the title-winning squad remains revered in the city of Francistown.

A magical season ended in disappointment, however, as City Greens lost an absorbing Coke Cup final to their then brother’s, Botswana Meat Commission FC (BMC).

With the game finishing 1-1, BMC held their nerve from the spot, winning 6-5 on penalties.

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Another cup final defeat followed five years later, as Ecco lost the inaugural Mascom Top8 final to Township Rollers, undone by the Pula popping Popa 3-1.

Their presence in the showpiece game proved to be the last of the good times for Ecco.

Two years later, in 2014, the club’s main sponsor, BMC, ended their association with the side.

Relegation swiftly followed in the ensuing campaign (2014/15), in which Ecco finished bottom, 14 points adrift of safety, and managing just four wins all season.

The club narrowly missed out on an immediate return to the top flight, finishing second in the following season but losing the promotional play-offs to Rolling Boys (now Security Systems).

For City Greens Chairman, Blessed Mahwa, BMC’s departure proved a pivotal point in the club’s downfall.

“When BMC pulled out, we lost experienced and competitive players who joined other clubs for greener pastures. It was difficult to find a sponsor since we were using BMC product name Ecco hence why we eventually changed the club name,” Mahwa told Voice Sport this week.

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A dark day for the greens

“When the club relegated we lost supporters because a lot of them joined us from other teams because we were doing well. It was very hard to sustain the team and we were using our family resources to honor the games and camping expenses. The first season in First Division, we managed to qualify for the play-offs surviving on P10, 000 prize money from the premier league,” continued Mahwa, adding he is stunned by the BFA’s decision to stop the league with just four games left and much to play for.

“When the season stopped due to COVID-19, we were left with four games and we needed only two wins to be amongst the top five. We are still working on appealing the matter because we feel it is a harsh decision since we were not consulted,” concluded the aggrieved chairman.

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