Santos and Dynamos battle for a place in the Premier League
180 minutes is all that separates either Flamingo Santos or Motlakase Power Dynamos from a place in next season’s Premier League.
The clubs meet this Saturday for the first instalment of a two-legged play-off tie to decide who gains promotion to the country’s elite division.
Both teams qualified for the make-or-break double header by virtue of their second-placed finishes in their respective leagues.
Santos, who many pundits tipped for automatic promotion at the start of the season, finished five points behind Sharps in the Debswana First Division South, whilst Dynamos were runners up to Tafic in the Northern Division.
The two sides have previous premiership experience, with Dynamos only dropping out of the top flight last year.
The Palapye-based outfit suffered heartache on the final day of the season, when a 2-0 defeat to Gunners combined with an unexpected win for Green Lovers away at BDF XI meant that they finished in the dreaded bottom three and were relegated.
Santos, on the other hand, last tasted premier league football in 2014 and will be desperate to avoid a fourth consecutive season in the doldrums of the First Division.
Unfortunately, as is often the case with domestic football in Botswana, off-field confusion threatens to undermine the build-up to Saturday’s game.
At the time of going to press, a venue for the match had not yet been confirmed.
Both teams expected the fixture – which is Santos’ home leg – to be played in Otse as was originally agreed but it seems the Botswana Football Association decided to move it to Lobatse for an evening kick-off.
Motlakase have since written a letter to the BFA, complaining that they do not have the financial resources to play in Lobatse. In the letter, the club pointed out that the game was initially scheduled to be played in Otse during the afternoon, thus their plan was to travel back after the match as they do not have money for two-night accommodation.
As far as the football goes, Dynamo’s supremely confident coach, Pule Mogotsi, told Voice Sport that if his players execute their game plan they will win the first-leg
Chouka Chouka’s mentor revealed the club had sent officials to spy on Santos during their last matches and so know exactly what to expect.
Mogotsi insisted his team could realistically end the tie as a contest after the first-leg, saying, “We are going into this game with an attacking mind set. We intend to score more goals so that we can be on the safe side. We have to play as if it is our last game and go all out.”
The Motlakase mentor believes that his team’s mix of youth and experience will ultimately prevail.
“There are three key players we managed to keep when relegated Kagiso Rankabekwa, Letsweletse Seane and Thatayothe Gaokgorwe. These players have a vast of experience and the rest of the squad is youth with quality,” he said.
Similarly, Mogotsi’s Santos counterpart, Arnold Paker Mampori promised to ‘give it everything’ in pursuit of promotion.
However, Mampori complained that the confusion over the location for Saturday’s encounter had disrupted his preparations.
“We are not sure where the game is going to be played. This is frustrating because we expected them to confirm the venue in advance so that we could test the ground and train there for at least a week before the game.
“Lobatse is too far from our supporters and we need them to boost the boys morale. We are trying by all means to be focused,” said Mampori.
The Santos coach was not willing to elaborate on his team’s game plan for Saturday’s crucial encounter, saying simply, “Our intention is to score goals and not concede in order to disadvantage our opponents.”
Mampori, whose side had hard-fought friendlies with Second Division sides Masitaoka and Central Fighters in the build up to the Play-Offs, said the team would be banking much on their veteran players.
He fingered experienced trio, Mosimanegape Pelaelo, Bosa Mokgweetsi, Eric Molefi as vital to Santos’ chances, adding that they needed to ‘guide the young ones’.
The two sides will meet again on the 27th for Dynamo’s home leg.
Glory and a place with the big boys await the winners, whilst the losers face despair and the anguish of a season wasted – that’s how great the stakes are!