Home comforts

Portia Mlilo
BOLD: BPL coaches, Kgomela and Motang

Gabs derby returns to the capital after three years away

After almost three years away, the biggest game in local football, the Gabs derby returns to its rightful home on Saturday as Gaborone United host Township Rollers at the National Stadium.

Last played in the capital back in March 2020, when GU’s 2-1 victory on what turned out to be the final match of a shortened season cost Rollers the league, the derby has gone AWOL ever since.

While Covid-19 prevented the 2020/21 season from taking place, the previous campaign saw the fixture moved to Francistown over the festive period for what was billed as the Money Machine’s home game.

In February, Popa hosted the clash in Tlokweng’s Royal Aria stadium, clinching a 1-0 win in front of a packed house to briefly breathe new life into the title race.

- Advertisement -

It proved to be a false dawn and the Reds would go on to extinguish the Blues’ hopes in ruthless, relentless fashion. The result sparked a 12-match unbeaten run for Mayogoleele that lasted until the end of the season, by which time GU had opened up a six-point gap on their inner city rivals.

The last time the two giants clashed in Gabs, Rollers were the dominant force. Had Mapalastina avoided defeat on that fateful day back in March two-and-a-half years ago, they would have secured a 5th straight BPL crown.

Instead, they lost, and the league went to Jwaneng Galaxy by a single point.

Since then, the balance of power in the capital has shifted slightly towards the red half; a GU victory at the weekend and that shift will arguably become a full blown transfer.

Both sides go into the encounter protecting unbeaten records.

- Advertisement -

Yet to concede, the Money Machine have been perfect in their three league outings to date, securing a hat-trick of 2-0 successes over BDF XI, Holy Ghost and then Orapa United.

Rollers have been almost as impressive, their only blip coming in a 1-1 draw with Police XI in Week 2. Otherwise, they have kept three clean sheets, the latest coming in a 3-0 thumping of Nico United on Sunday.

With confidence in both camps high, a thrilling tussle is expected.

- Advertisement -

In their efforts to attract supporters to the stadium, GU has been hosting activations to hype the game and sell tickets.

As an added attraction, the Queen of Mosakaso, Charma Gal will entertain the crowd in the pre match build-up and at half-time as well.

Addressing the media this Wednesday, GU Coach, Benny Kgomela said his team had prepared thoroughly and were ready for the challenge.

With a fully fit squad at his disposable, Kgomela admitted he was spoilt for choice.

“Those who missed the first three games due to injuries: Alford Velaphi, Obonwe Maome and Lesego Galenamotlhale have recovered and are ready for the game. So far our goalkeeping department headed by Coach Khalid Niyonzima has been excellent,” he said.

On the other side of the divide, Popa Coach, Thabo Motang said he expects a tense encounter between two quality sides.

Giving an update on his players’ availability, the tactician revealed, “Ototeng Dintwa was given a red card in our match against BDF XI so he will miss the game while Captain Morgan was injured when we played Nico over the weekend and still nursing the injury. Jackson Lesole is also under observation as he is recovering from an injury otherwise the rest of the players are available.”

Having turned out for both sides during his playing days, Motang knows more than most the fanfare and prestige that accompanies the historic tie.

“Playing derby always comes with a pressure and I have played it in both teams so I understand it better,” he concluded with a twinkle in his eye.

At 1600hrs on Saturday, the latest chapter in the best-seller that is GU vs Rollers will begin; it should make for a fascinating entry!

Leave a comment