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Cooper says sorry

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Apologetic Mini Cooper zooms back into Zebras fold

After making headlines for his drink-fuelled indiscipline whilst on national team duty, Mothusi Cooper has offered a heartfelt apology to the nation.

Although he was not included in the Zebras initial 25-man squad for the upcoming AFCON 2021 qualifiers with Zimbabwe and Algeria, Cooper’s remorse has earned him a recall to the side.

Widely regarded as one of Botswana’s most talented footballers, the 22-year-old central midfielder was one of four players suspended from the Zebras by Head Coach, Adel Amrouche.

Cooper, along with Orapa United players, Mothusi Johnson and Onkabetse Makgantai and Thero Setsile (TS Galaxy) were booted out in disgrace after being caught drinking alcohol while in camp.

The quartet’s boozy antics reportedly took place in-between the Zebras ill-fated two-legged FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier against Malawi, which they lost 1-0.

Whilst Cooper’s drinking mates remain condemned to the sidelines, the Township Rollers playmaker has been handed a shot at redemption.

Having originally been omitted by Amrouche when the Belgian announced his squad on Monday, Cooper was handed a surprise recall just 24 hours later.

This was followed by a 39-second video of Cooper on social media in which he apologised to the nation for his indiscipline.

The dreadlocked midfielder, who goes by the nickname Mini Cooper, advised professional players to stop drinking alcohol ‘before it’s too late’.

He further apologised to his family for his misbehaviour and was quick to thank Amrouche, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and the fans for giving him a second chance with the national team.

Not wishing to dwell on the matter, Amrouche described Copper as a good player bursting with potential.

“I’m glad he’s apologised,” added the coach, whose side left for Zimbabwe on Tuesday, where they meet the Warriors in Harare on Friday.

The Zebras then return home, where they face the daunting task of hosting recently crowned AFCON champions Algeria at the National Stadium on Monday.

In a brief interview with Voice Sport, Amrouche stressed that whilst Botswana players are talented, they need to work on their discipline and ‘respect the camp’.

Although he bemoaned the lack of preparation time the squad have had together, Amrouche noted match fitness was not a concern.

“I believe my players are ready to represent the nation well. There are new players in the team – they will be guided by the more experienced guys who have played in international games before. We do not have stars and are in the process of building a strong team with a good mentality,” added Amrouche.

The no-nonsense tactician further revealed that Jwaneng Galaxy’s midfield maestro Lebogang Ditsele was called for camp but did not show up.

“If he does not respect his country he should stay at home. I will work with those who are willing to play!” blasted the Belgian.

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Mass brawl overshadows Galaxy/Orapa thriller

*Semi-final finely poised after 1-1 first-leg draw

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There was little love on show between mining brothers Jwaneng Galaxy and Orapa United during their Mascom Top8 semi-final first-leg on Sunday, with players involved in a mass on-field brawl midway through the second half.

The unseemly scuffle overshadowed what was a high-quality affair and ultimately ended finely poised at 1-1.

Although it was not clear what sparked the scrap – with neither manager wanting to talk about it after the game – it appears Galaxy players took exception to ‘an item’ left in the Orapa goal.

To add to the confusion, the referee appeared to show Galaxy striker Tebogo Sembowa a red card for his part in the melee only to seemingly change his mind and reverse his decision.

As for the action, Jwaneng broke the deadlock in the 19th minute thanks to a thunderous strike from Lesenya Malepela. The shot took a deflection on the way, wrong footing Lesenya Malepela in the Orapa goal and sending the home supporters wild.

However, the lead lasted just five minutes with the Ostriches forcing an equalizer through Lawrence Ndunga.

That brought an early end to the scoring, with both teams creating, but unable to convert, numerous chances in a frenetic second-half.

It mans that the defending champions will have to get a result in Orapa if they are to become the first side to retain the Mascom Top8 title in the tournament’s nine-year history.

Speaking to Voice Sport after the game, Galaxy gaffer Miguel Da Costa admitted there was little to choose between the two sides.

“The two teams have quality and they play good football hence you could not know who was going to win. We made a few mistakes and we were little bit better than Orapa United, we were just unlucky to come up with a draw,” was the Portuguese tactician’s assessment of the match.

For his part, Orapa United coach Mogomotsi Mpote said he was extremely happy to leave Jwaneng with a 1-1 draw.

“It was difficult to play Galaxy because they are a good side but our plan went very well. We wanted a goal to take home and it happened. Now we are going to attack Galaxy at home and see what happens,” revealed Mpote confidently.

The return leg is set for Saturday 8 February.

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Ntimbale challenge returns

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After a three-year hiatus, Ntimbale Challenge is back again in Masingwaneng on 28th and 29th February.

The exciting annual event staged at Ntimbale Dam covers the villages of Masingwaneng, Mambo, Gulubane, Botalaote, Sechele, Makaleng, Matenge and Toteng in the North East District.

According to the event’s founder, Oteng Mokowe, the Ntimbale Challenge was conceptualised in 2013, but they had to wait until 2016 to stage the first event.

“I had to delay the event because most people thought I was using it to campaign for the 2014 General elections,” explained Mokowe.

In 2016 however, the long anticipated event kicked off in style with over 20 riders competing, and cultural nights held on Friday and Saturday.

“After the event, royals from the involved villages approached me with the idea of using the event to raise money for the Village Trust Fund. I gave them a go ahead to host the event the following year, and all the money made was handed over to the village leadership,” Mokowe told Voice Sport.

He said together with three others, they had to pop out P20 000 each to sponsor the event.

However to his disappointment, the Ntimbale challenge did not take place in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

“This meant we had to come back as the originators of the event and revive it. I can assure you, this year it’s going to be big,” said an excited Mokowe.

He further told Voice Sport that they started the event to promote tourism and to boost the economy of the north east by using the facilities available in the area.

“We’ve increased activities and have included camel rides, hiking and canoe racing. We are also trying to get skydivers – our challenge is that the country has only two dive masters who will be engaged on the said dates,” said Mokowe adding that they’re however still hopefully of getting the divers at least for the official opening day on Friday.

According to Mokowe, bikers will do two 50km laps on a treacherous track starting from Ntimbale dam, going past Vukwi, Gulubane, Matenge and back to the starting point popularly known as The Ark.

The official opening, expected to be performed by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, will be on Friday 28th in Masingwaneng, followed by a cultural night featuring Dikakapa, Dipela Tsa Ga Kobokwe, City Polka, Matambanadzo Cultural Group, Kenny Mackenzie, while negotiations are still ongoing to bring on board Tjilenje Tje Ngwao.

There’ll be another cultural night on Saturday and a music festival at If Not Why Not Club in Makaleng featuring the likes of La Timmy and DJ Gouveia.

“We’ve also invited revered Muvhango actor Macdonald Tshifhiwa Ndou populalrly known as ‘KK’ who’ll hold motivational sessions with Francistown based actors and drama groups from schools in the area,” revealed Mokowe.

This event will be carried out in liaison with Botswana Tourism Organisation and Water Utilities Corporation.

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Rollers with one leg in Top 8 Final

*Popa gain commanding 3-1 first leg lead over BDF XI

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Township Rollers have one leg in the Mascom Top8 final after a ruthless display against BDF XI at the Royal Aria Stadium on Saturday.

Popa ran out convincing 3-1 winners in the first-leg of their semi-final clash with a BDF XI side that looked short of ideas and struggled to get out of first gear.

A Tumisang Orebonye penalty, Edwin Moalosi’s deflected strike and a late tap-in from substitute Motsholetsi Sikele had given the two-time winners a commanding three-goal advantage.

However, the Army Boys breathed unexpected life back into the tie, breaching Rollers well-drilled defence in the 88th minute courtesy of Oratile Taunyane’s perfectly placed header.

It leaves the semi-final intriguingly poised, with Rollers taking a two-goal lead into the second leg. Having blown a similar lead against Gaborone United at the same stage last year, Popa will be wary of slipping up again.

The game also gave Rollers fans a first glimpse of their exciting new signing, Francis Afriyie, who came on as a 70th minute substitute. Although the Ghanaian’s first touch let him down on a number of occasions – much to the annoyance of Popa’s passionate supporters – he showed enough skill to suggest he could be a big player for Rollers in the months to come.

After the game, BDF XI mentor Letang Kgengwenyane insisted there is still much to play for.

“We are not under pressure because anything can happen at the second-leg, we believe we can overturn this result. From here, we are going back to the drawing board and will see where we went wrong so that we rectify our mistakes,” he told Voice Sport.

Unsurprisingly Kgengwenyane’s opposite number, Frank Nuttal, was all smiles in his post-match interview. The Scot has enjoyed a dream start to his time at Rollers, following up a 7-0 league thumping of Police XI in his first game in charge with the dismantling of BDF XI.

“I am happy because the boys executed my plan well. However, we should not get carried away because we still have the second-leg to play and that is when we can be delighted to have qualified for the final!” said Nuttal, who is fast becoming a cult hero amongst the Popa faithful.

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