12 in, 12 out as Majatlhaga shake it up
Although local football remains at a Covid-19 enforced standstill, things are happening extremely quickly at Masitaoka FC.
Sweeping changes are taking place at the newly-promoted Molepolole-based side, with 12 players being released and 12 replacements duly ushered in.
For the unfortunate dozen who have been let go, it marks a ruthless return for their hard work in the previous season. Cut short with four games remaining, it was a season in which Masitaoka secured promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their 59-year history, beating Mogoditshane Fighters to the Debswana First Division South title by a single point.
Whilst it is still uncertain when domestic football will return, what is certain is that it will be a new-look Majatlhaga that takes to the field when it does.
The new recruits were unveiled to the media last week, with the standout signing being striker, Patrick Kaunda. The 29-year-old forward swapped one title-winning team for another, joining from defending BPL Champions, Jwaneng Galaxy. The Zimbabwean hit-man spent four relatively successful years in the mining town and Masitaoka will be banking on Kaunda’s experience and goal threat to guide them through their first season in the top flight.
However, amid the excitement of the unveilings, there was a slight sense of sadness for the 12 who will miss out on Masitaoka’s history-making foray into the elite league despite playing an integral part in achieving it.
Certainly, it was a point not lost on the club’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Godfrey Ratlhaga who stressed the mass exodus was not a decision the team had taken lightly.
“It was very difficult to make this decision as these players were pivotal in our promotion and we wish them well in their future endeavors,” he told Voice Sport.
The Masitaoka mouthpiece added he is confident the Blues have assembled a squad capable of surviving in the BPL.
“We have acquired experienced players who are going to help us retain our league status as it is one of our mandates,” explained Ratlhaga, describing the club’s promotion as ‘the opportunity of a lifetime’.
“This opportunity came at the right moment when we have set our eyes on plying our trade in the elite league. We want to stay there as long as possible and eventually challenge for top honours when time goes on,” he concluded ambitiously.
When contacted for a comment, local football analyst, Kagiso Phatsimo labelled the move a gamble, noting it could reap great reward but also prove disastrous.
“Masitaoka has decided to let go of players that were vital in their promotion to the elite league, bringing in a more experienced crop of players who know what it means to play at the topflight.
“That might be helpful if they want to retain their elite league status but it can cause an imbalance in the form of gelling to the squad. We are in the hard times of Covid-19, there is little time for the coach to find the right formula when the league finally start,” he warned.
Phatsimo advised the club’s management not to lose patience with the new players, warning it could take a while for the team to find their feet.
“In the previous years, we have seen Masitaoka FC buying a First Division team’s status [Black Peril] after losing out on the play-offs. The management is the people who seem to want instant results and that could prove difficult as they will playing against big guns who are bound to give them problems.”
Meanwhile, one of the 12 to be shown the exit door, 29-year-old right-back Karabo Radikolana told Voice Sport he was distraught a the way his childhood club had treated him.
Having served Masitaoka for seven years, Radikolana was licking his lips at the thought of lining-up against the biggest teams in the land when he was informed his services were no longer required.
“I am really devastated about how my situation at Masitaoka ended because I am one of the longest-serving members of the club as I joined them back in 2013. I expected to at least have a run in the elite league as I am one of the players that contributed to the team’s promotion.”
Instead of competing against the likes of Township Rollers, Extension Gunners, and co, Radikolana will once again strut his stuff in the dust of the First Division after joining Master Blackpool.
“When matters looked like they were over for me at Masitaoka, the recently promoted Master Blackpool reached out for my services just before the play-offs back in December 2020. I jumped at the opportunity to rejuvenate my career,” he said, ending the interview with a touching message for his old team.
“I love football and I wish them well.”
Patrick Kaunda, Sitale Nyambe, Obonetse Keabetswe, Ototeng Dintwa, Kabelo Kuti, Tendai Kesekile, Emmanuel Sekwena, Condry Masire, Vincent Marumo, Tebogo Benjamin, Bakang Tsholang and Tapiwa Sepatela
Topo Piet, Tolani Olaoye, Calvin Mooketsi, Thabiso Mabachi, Duncan Tshireletso, Karabo Radikolana, Thabiso Keitumetse, Victor Mothakaja, Kefentse Mathe, Ishmael Baitshoki, Ookeditse Oagile, and Phodiso Radikolana