Expect excitement as Mascom top 8 returns
The eighth edition of the Mascom Top 8 is set to get off to an explosive start when two former winners go head-to-head on Friday.
Both Orapa United and BDF XI know what it takes to lift the coveted trophy – which once again comes with a bumper P1.3 million payday – having won it in 2016 and 2014 respectively.
The Ostriches in particular have a formidable record in the tournament, reaching each of the last three finals; indeed the boys from Boteti have a 100 per cent record when it comes to qualifying for the final.
The Oranges are unbeaten at home in the cup competition, turning the Itekeng Stadium – the venue for Friday’s first leg – into something of a fortress.
They go into the game brimming with confidence, having recorded back-to-back wins against Jwaneng Galaxy and Township Rollers in their last two league outings – victories that came within four days of each other.
The two sides have already met once in the league, playing to a 1-1 draw at the Itekeng in the opening fixture of the season.
They also have previous when it comes to the Mascom Top 8. They were drawn against each other in the 2015/16 semi-finals, with Orapa knocking out the Army Boys 5-3 on penalties after the two-legged tie had finished 2-2.
The club’s Assistant Coach Zachariah Muzazi expects another close-fought encounter this time around.
Speaking to Voice Sport this week, Muzazi revealed Orapa go into the game with a squad ravaged by suspension and injury.
The trio of Olekantse Mambo, Candice Molebatsi and Kelapile Ndlovu are all serving a suspension for yellow cards accumulated and will miss the match.
Club captain Thabang Mosige is out long term and not expected to return to action for at least another ten months. Lesego Galenamotlhale is also out injured and not expected to feature for Orapa again this year.
“Our goalkeeper Kabelo Joseph is also injured,” added Muzazi, who remained remarkably upbeat considering his side’s diminished resources.
“Apart from the suspensions and injury the preparations have been going well and the squad has shown commitment.
“This is not going to be an easy encounter looking at our history with BDF in this tournament. Previously we eliminated them in quarter and semi finals so we expecting them to come with all guns blazing. We are prepared to play with caution not to concede as it might work against us in the second leg,” revealed Muzazi.
This year’s tournament, held under the theme ‘Dzo Dusa’ (it is going to be exciting), will see two teams making their Top 8 debut.
Both Black Forest and the season’s surprise package Sharps Shooting Stars will take part in the competition for the first time.
Black Forest have the unenviable task of taking on defending champions and two-time winners Township Rollers. Initially scheduled for Saturday, the game has been postponed till next Friday. This was after the national team – which included four Popa players – were unable to fly from Mauritania on Monday as originally planned due to adverse weather conditions.
The Zebras are expected to land in Botswana today (Friday). As such, Premier League CEO Thabo Ntshinogang explained that Rollers were within their rights to cancel the game in accordance to BFA rules which state that where a club has more than three players away on national team such club shall not be required to honour league or the association competition.
For their part, Sharps will kick-start their first-ever Top 8 campaign with a tricky tie away against 2017 winners Jwaneng Galaxy in a televised 3:45pm start on Sunday.
The fourth quarter-final sees Miscellaneous host two-time champions Gaborone United in Serowe on Saturday.