Popa set to sail through to the CAF Champions League Group stages
Knock-knock. Who’s there?
Township Rollers will be going for one more bare knuckled bang on CAF’s door of football success, which sadly and quite too often has shut them out of Africa’s premier club competition.
After numerous attempts without success, the red hot Gaborone West giants have one foot in the group stages of the 2018 Total CAF Champions League.
The 14-times Premier League Champions have to navigate their way past a resurgent Tanzanian side Young Africans Sports Club who come into the crucial Sabbath showdown hoping to overturn a 2-1 home defeat. Away strikes by Lemponye Tshireletso and Motsholetsi Sikele have put Popa Popa in the driver’s seat.
They now need to only avoid defeat to ensure a safe passage for a historic group stage qualification.
Nikola Kavazovic’s team put up a gallant fight in Dar es Salaam last Monday, despite being involved in a gruelling Mascop Top 8 Final clash against Orapa United on Saturday, a match they convincingly won 4-2.
It was midfielders Ivan Ntenge and Captain Maano Ditshupo whose probing passes and intelligence on and off the ball dislodged Yangas’ stubborn defence.
Ntenge in particular dictated terms in the second half. He sprayed passes around and covered every blade of grass also switching play to help launch attacks from the blind spots.
With the Top 8 done and dusted and within a striking distance of a 15th Premier League title, Popa are expected to throw everything into tomorrow’s match in front of a sold out home support.
Ticket prices have been slashed and Mapalastina fans have been mobilised across the four corners of the country in an operation that is expected to help fill up the 22, 000 capacity National Stadium.
As part of their ‘Tlatsa Lebala’ operation, tickets are sold at P10 for the south stand, P30 north stand, P40 panda and P60 grandstand. Rollers Management also donated over 100 match tickets to students from their adopted school Sir Seretse Khama Junior as part of their social responsibility.
Tickets are sold at All Liquorama outlets in Gaborone, the bus rank, Rollers offices opposite University of Botswana and at CA Sales.
Yangas on the other hand are however not bothered by the brewing excitement in Botswana’s football corridors.
They are plotting a massive upset and intend to stop Rollers dead on their tracks.
The Tanzanian side arrived in the country on Tuesday which has given them three full days to acclimatize.
Currently second in the Tanzanian top league, they go into the weekend clash carrying back to back moral-boosting victories against Kagera Sugar and Stand United.
Yangas need to win by a margin of two goals to slam the door shut in Rollers’ face.
Their hopeful coach George Lwandamina said he’s a follower of Botswana football and understands it quite well.
The tactician said his opponents were exceptionally good in the first leg and also showed great organisational skills.
He said their approach is that they lost the first half of a match, and now they are looking to level the scores in the second half to make it two-all.
“It is just halftime, and we are planning a come back in the second half,” said Lwandamina.
Yangas tactician said they have a plan they intend to execute on Saturday, a stealthy attack that would pull the rug from under Rollers’ feet.
“There’s always a long and short term plan,” Lwandamina added thoughtfully.
Meanwhile Rollers Team Manager Motshegetsi Mafa has pleaded with football lovers to attend the game in large numbers.
He said in all the CAF games they played away, they endured the wrath of intimidatingly large crowds.
“Our supporters should come in large numbers, make a raucous at the National Stadium as this helps to lift players morale,” said Mafa.
He said football fans from other clubs should also come in numbers to cheer Rollers on to help them qualify for that elusive spot in the Champions League.
“Let’s come in numbers and fill up the stadium,” said Mafa.
Kick-off is 15:45. Certainly the ball is in Popa’s court. Could the football gods finally open the door to let the Blues in for a tussle with the big boys?
Like legendary Jamaican Reggae artist Bob Marley said, ‘only time will tell’.