On the comeback trail

Tshepo Kehimile
DETERMINED: Notwane during their previous games

New look Toronto target immediate return to elite league

Despite a disastrous previous campaign, in which they were dumped out of the Botswana Premier League (BPL) with barely a whimper, winning just five games all season, Notwane are confident they will not be away from the elite division for long.

The man charged with masterminding Toronto’s immediate return, Thaloba Nthaga, has spent the off-season wheeling and dealing as he looks to build a squad capable of challenging for promotion.

In total, the Gaborone-based club has brought in an incredible 19 new players!

“I felt we needed a fresh start hence a massive overhaul which was coupled by bringing a lot of exciting players with a winning mentality,” the tactician told Voice Sport in an exclusive interview this week.

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As well as the new faces, Nthaga has managed to keep the spine of his team together, retaining the services of influential trio: Kudzanani Machadzani, Terry Mbuqe and Emanuel Nlu.

The three were a rare light in Notswana’s dismal relegation last season; Nthaga will be hoping there are no lingering scars.

Sechaba never really recovered from a disastrous start, which saw them accumulate just three points from their opening nine games.

In truth, Notwane were lucky to avoid the drop the previous season, when an unlikely 1-0 over title chasing Orapa United secured their third victory in a row.

On the comeback trail
ADAMANT: Notwane FC during one of their games last season.

The result saw them move out of the bottom three, leapfrogging Tafic in what turned out to be the last game of the season, with Covid-19 bringing the league to an unnatural end just two-thirds through.

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The stay of execution proved short-lived. The dreaded axe claimed Notwane’s scalp the very next season, Toronto falling five points short of Prisons XI and safety.

Nthaga took control with eight games still remaining, but his reign never really took off, managing just four points from a possible 24.

Considering his miserly return, many expected him to pay the ultimate price.

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However, management have kept faith with Nthaga, backing him to guide the club back to the top flight as the three-time BPL champions look to revive the glory days of the mid 90s.

Likely saved by his CV, the coach knows exactly what it takes to escape the dust of the First Division, albeit via the playoffs.

Nthaga was in charge of Mogoditshane Fighters when the Brazilians won promotion to the Premier League back in 2020, beating Nico United to the final spot after both sides finished second in their respective leagues.

Admitting he expects a rough ride in a division packed with powerhouses, the former Red Sparks guru said, “There are so many teams that look ready to compete; this season is going to be the toughest First Division league I have ever participated at!”

The southern division contains a number of teams who will feel they have a decent shot at the championship, with Mochudi Centre Chiefs leading the pack.

After narrowly missing out on automatic ascension to Holy Ghost, Magosi were humbled in the play-offs, trounced 5-0 in Francistown by a rampant Eleven Angels.

The likes of newly promoted VTM, Matebele and Union Flamengo Santos have all bolstered their squads and are expected to be extremely competitive.

Crackit City Polar, who bought the status of relegated Gilport Lions, will also be one to look out for, as will UVI Black Forest.

Magoleng finished third last season, fading away after a promising start in which they briefly led the log.

Optimistic Forest have what it takes to take the next step, Caretaker Coach, Israel Kealeboga, promised his new look team will be a force to reckon with.

“We have mixed youngsters with experience in almost every position in order to instill discipline and hard work. Most players we lost, we managed to replace them with top class talent that can take the team to greater heights. I am adamant that we can achieve automatic promotion as the team is physically and mentally fit,” declared Kealeboga.

With the season expected to kick-off by the end of the month, the wait is almost over; battle lines are drawn and fireworks predicted!

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