RAMPANT ROLLERS UNBEATEN IN THE LEAGUE IN 2017
Even by their lofty standards, 2017 has been a remarkable year for Township Rollers.
The 14-time champions have gone through the entire calendar year without losing a single league game – an astonishing 35-match run that stretches back to the 26 November 2016, when Mochudi Centre Chiefs edged a 3-2 thriller at the National Stadium.
Since then rampant Rollers have steamrolled all before them, winning 23 out of the 31 league games they played this year.
Indeed Popa tasted defeat just three times in 2017.
In the first round of the CAF Champions League they lost 2-1 in the away leg against Madagascan champions CNaPS Sport, suffering in the sweltering midday humidity of Antanaviro. Despite winning the home leg 3-2, Rollers were eliminated on away goals, their African adventure ending at the first hurdle.
Orapa United inflicted Mapalastina’s other 2017 defeats, knocking them out of the Mascom Top 8 in the semi-finals, winning 2-1 and 2-0 to record an unexpected 4-1 aggregate score.
It was a disappointing low in a season of highs that saw Rollers win the league by eight points.
The Blues are well on their way to defending their title, which would be their third in a row.
As the BTC Premier League breaks for Christmas, after 13 matches Popa are 11 points clear at the top, although second-place Jwaneng Galaxy have a game in hand.
Speaking to Voice Sport this week, the club’s Public Relations Officer, Phempheretlhe Pheto revealed their first target is to defend the league.
After that they are looking to win a second Mascom Top 8 – a tournament Rollers have reached the final of four times out of six but won only once.
Pheto added that Popa are targeting the group stages of the 2018 CAF Champions League – teh continent’s elite club competition. If they do get that far it will be the first time Rollers manage such a feat in their 48-year existence.
However, the PR man is confident his side can make history
“We have competitive, dedicated and hard working players who can win these competitions. The team did very well first round and credit should go to our players, technical team and management. Our coach Nikola Kavazovic is the only coach who have not lost a game so far and we are impressed by his performance,” he said.
When asked about Kavazovic and Joel Mogorosi’s recent charge by the Botswana Premier League Disciplinary Committee for bringing football into disrepute, Pheto dismissed the matter as ‘people trying to distract us’.
Rollers’ Serbian coach has been charged P10, 000 for comments he made in the aftermath of the Sharps Shooting Stars encounter. Popa won the game 2-0 but suffered a number of injuries against a physical Sharps side, which led Kavazovic to label the Premier League newbies a small-minded team he had never heard of.
Mogorosi, who suffered a leg fracture during the 22nd of October fixture and has not played since, allegedly uttered threatening words on his social media directed at one of Sharps players. The former Zebras captain also accused the referee of failing to take adequate disciplinary measures when he (Mogorosi) was injured.
This week he was fined P5, 000 and handed a three-game suspension for his comments.
Pheto explained the club decided not to appeal the case and paid the money as they do not want any unnecessary distractions.
Although the league is currently on a break, Phweto said the squad are still in training, with players only being released this Saturday for the holidays.
The festivities will be short lived however, as players are expected to resume training on December 26.
He told Voice Sport the club have made it mandatory in every player’s contract that they do not play in Christmas tournaments at their home villages, adding that action will be taken against any player who breaches this stipulation.
Pheto concluded the interview by revealing the club have resigned Ofentse Nato to bolster an already formidable defence, which has conceded just nine goals this season.
Ending with a bit of Christmas cheer for Rollers fans, Pheto said the club’s talented winger, 27-year-old Galabgwe Moyana had recovered from injury and resumed training with the team.
For Popa’s spoiled supporters, it is an extra bit of good news to end an incredible year for the 2017 invincibles of Botswana football.