…..As Jwaneng trade blows with Orapa in Mascom Top 8 Final
The golden glow of the Mascom Top 8 trophy will have the added sparkle of diamonds when two Debswana-backed clubs tussle it out for the crown at the Francistown Sports Complex on Saturday night.
The final of the sixth edition of the tournament sees defending champions Orapa United take on their sister club, Jwaneng Galaxy – a meeting being dubbed ‘the diamond derby’.
Under the tutelage of accomplished Zimbabwean mentor Madinda Ndlovu, the Ostriches have an immaculate record in the cup competition.
Last year, in their maiden Top 8 appearance, the Oranges of Boteti made it all the way to the final, defying the odds to beat Township Rollers 3-1 in a thrilling finale in Francistown.
They now stand on the verge of history as they bid to become the first team to win back-to-back Top 8’s since the tournament began in 2011.
Indeed, the game represents Orapa’s most realistic possibility of silverware this season.
Currently trailing league leaders Rollers by nine points, and a further seven points off second placed Galaxy, Ndlovu’s side will be desperate for a repeat of last season’s cup heroics.
Regarded as one the most successful coaches in the country since his arrival in 2005, Ndlovu went on to win the league with Rollers and Chiefs.
Saturday marks the tactician’s fourth appearance in the Top 8 final.
His first final was in the 2013/14 season with Popa, losing 5-4 on penalties to an inspired BDF XI.
Ndlovu was back in the final with Rollers the following season where he was to suffer heartache again, this time succumbing 2-1 to Gaborone United – a defeat that led to the Zimbabwean’s unceremonious sacking.
However, as Orapa coach, Ndlovu would come back to haunt his former employers, exacting the perfect revenge in last season’s epic final.
Now, after once again dumping Mapalastina out of the competition, this time at the semi-final stage, Ndlovu’s will be quietly confident of adding another title to his already impressive CV.
Orapa United Public Relations Officer, Tebatso Hule sounded upbeat in an interview with Voice Sport ahead of the historical clash.
“We are all motivated to set a record of back-to-back Top 8 triumphs,” said Hule.
“This is our strategic intent. We want to bring pride to the Boteti region by having a brand associated with success,” Hule told Voice Sport.
The Ostriches PRO further said they want Boteti people to embrace this team and support it in its endeavour to be the best club in the country.
“We have arranged transport for our supporters from villages like Mopipi, Mosu and Letlhakane. Buses will leave on Saturday and we expect our supporters to fill up the stadium,” he said.
Hule told Voice Sports that United’s continued success in domestic football has compelled some companies in Boteti to lend a helping hand for the Francistown trip.
“Some transport operators have availed their buses to transport our fans to Francistown. We have companies such as Bharon Construction and Clean Time who have also lent a helping hand,” he said.
As for the football, the two sides played out a 0-0 draw in the league earlier in the season and another tight encounter is expected on Saturday.
In a story with unerring similarities to Orapa’s, Galaxy have made it to the final in their maiden Top 8 appearance – they will be desperately hoping for a similar fairytale ending.
Despite the daunting task that faces them, the Jwaneng outfit have the firepower to lift the trophy. With a squad containing seven players who have won the competition before, Galaxy will not be lacking in ‘big game’ experience.
Boitumelo ‘Navara’ Mafhoko, Tebogo Sembowa and Musa Ohilwe won it with Rollers, while Moreetsi Mosimanyana and Lesego Lubinda tasted victory with BDF XI.
Although he’ll not be in the line-up, Sekhana Nandos Koko also won the cup with Rollers and his insight may come in handy.
Former Orapa United forward Thabang Sesenyi, who netted in the final against Rollers, is another trump card held by Galaxy ahead of the Saturday clash.
Sesenyi is a proven match winner who will be hungry to prove a point against his former employers.
Galaxy Chairman, Njabulo Gilika was cool as a cucumber when asked about his team’s prospects.
“We have been ready since day one. We can’t wait for this match to begin,” said Gilika.
The Chairmen revealed they will be without Thero Setsile due to suspension while Gofa Molapi is out with injury.
“Tebogo Sosome is also a doubt for this match. He’ll have to pass a late fitness test,” Gilika told Voice Sport.
The chairman further reminded sports lovers that transport has been arranged with Botswana Railways.
“The Blue Express will leave Gaborone at 8am on Saturday and arrive at 2pm. It will leave Francistown at 9am on Sunday and arrive in Gaborone at 15:30. It is only P86 return ticket, so people need to hurry because deadline is Thursday mid-day,” Gilka said.
Meanwhile, Mascom painted the city of Francistown yellow on Thursday with activations in malls giving away tickets to excited football fans.
According to the company’s Communications and Public Relations Manager, Barbara Gotlop they will also be transporting and accommodating media from Gaborone to further leverage coverage.
“Top 8 is one of our biggest Corporate Social Responsibility programmes. Through it we are able to reach out to a lot of people and I expect thousands to turn-up for the final,” said Gotlop.
Kick off is 20:30 and whilst they say diamonds are forever, only one team can go down in the annals of history as the 2016/17 Mascom Top 8 winners