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GR8 Ballers’ inspiring B/Ball story

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The future of basketball in the second city looks bright, thanks to a team of dedicated young men and women at Gr8 Ballers Basketball Academy.

Officially registered in March this year, the Academy has been holding annual basketball tournaments since 2016.

At the helm of an ambitious plan to turn the fortunes of the sport around in Francistown is Victor Ledimo.

The Maun native, a teacher at Donga Junior School, has led the charge in the city. His dedication is beginning to bear fruits.

“Since taking over at Donga JSS, we’ve managed to send a couple of players for national team trials and some of our players have gone on to represent the city at Botswana Games,” revealed the young educator proudly.

Ledimo, who’s part of the Team Francistown set-up at the ongoing Botswana Games in Gaborone, said they started the tournament in 2016 with a single trophy on their return from the Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) National Finals in Gaborone.

“After realising the amount of action teams enjoyed in Gaborone, we decided to come-up with something similar,” explained Ledimo.

“The tournament got better in 2017, but sadly we failed to host it in 2018 and 2019. This has not gone down well with the young basketball players in Francistown. They are demanding their tournament back!”

The basketball fanatic said plans are already underway to host a bigger tournament in March next year.

“We hope someone will come on board and sponsor trophies and medals for our talented athletes,” added Ledimo in his subtle appeal to private companies.

The dedicated coach told Voice Sport he is encouraged by the good results he sees from the academy.

“Three of our former players were part of the Mater Spei College team which won the 2019 BISA Nationals, defeating Maruapula Senior,” recalled Ledimo proudly.

He further said some of the players under the Gr8 Ballers mentorship were also part of the Bronze medal winning team at the 2017 Botswana Games.

“This year we have nine players as part of the Team Francistown in Gaborone. This speaks volumes and we believe the numbers and the quality of play will improve with time,” he said.

Recruited to the sport in 2012 when he arrived in Francistown, Ledimo has not looked back since.

He learnt the basics and was soon in charge of the Donga JSS team, which has been the leading basketball school in the north in the last seven years.

“I later met North East Basketball Coordinator Tirelo Serumola who’s been instrumental in the resurgence of the sport in the city,” he added.

Ledimo, however, laments the lack of facilities in the area, which he said hampers the sport’s progress.

“We use the Pelotshweu Primary School court, whose posts has been damaged for the past two years. We rely on BDF facilities and I wish there were more basketball courts and teams in Francistown.”

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The foreign brigade

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A LOOK AT THE LOCAL STARS FLYING THE FLAG IN SA

Mogakolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele (29)

Ngele took to the South African league like a duck to water when he joined Platinum Stars from Township Rollers in 2012.

Signed on the back of an impressive AFCON with the national team, the then 22-year-old’s fine form continued for his new club, where he formed a lethal strike force with Henrico Botes.

19 goals in 67 games, countless assists plus a Telkom Cup (a competition in which he was named ‘Player of the Tournament’) and three years later Mamelodi Sundowns came calling.

Unfortunately the lanky left footer’s stint with the Brazilians proved extremely frustrating and he was restricted to just 11 appearances in four years.

Indeed, much of his time was spent on loan at Bidvest Wits and SuperSport United, winning the league and MTN 8 with the former.

However, just when it appeared the playmaker might retrace his steps back home, Black Leopards offered him a lifeline at the start of the 2019/20 season.

Signed on a two-year contract, Ngele hasn’t featured much for Leopards, who are currently struggling in the league, second bottom after 17 games. The appointment of his former coach Cavin Johnson, who recently took over the reigns at Leopards, could prove a stroke of luck for Ngele.

Johnson is a big fan of the Zebra and handed him his first start of the season at the weekend.

Although Bloemfontein Celtic emerged victorious 4-2, Ngele put in a solid display which suggests he will be getting a lot more game time in the future.

Lesenya Ramoraka (25)

The marauding left-back joined Highlands Park after the 2018 season having starred for Orapa United.

It did not take Ramoraka long to secure a starting birth with Highlands, a feat not many local players manage so quickly.

GIFTED: Ramoraka

The flamboyant defender helped his new club to a 7th placed finish in their first season in the elite league.

Currently in 8th, Ramoraka, who has been an integral part of the Highlands set-up this season, will be hoping he can help his team secure another top 8 finish.

Mosha Gaolaolwe (26)

A hard tackling defender cum central-defensive-midfielder, Gaolaolwe joined National First Division (NFD) outfit TS Galaxy from Township Rollers at the beginning of the season.

Although he has been restricted to just five appearances, the steely player showed his versatility when the national team took on Algeria in an AFCON qualifier back in November.

The Desert Foxes ran out 1-0 winners on a damp night at the National Stadium but Gaolaolwe impressed in the middle of the park with his energy and tactical awareness.

He will be hoping for more opportunities with his club this year.

Ezekiel Morake (23)

The talented young shot stopper swapped one Galaxy for another at the beginning of the season, leaving Jwaneng to link up with Gaolaolwe at TS Galaxy.

SHOT STOPPER: Morake

Despite his obvious talent, Morake has found game time hard to come by, donning Galaxy’s colours just five times so far.

However, age is on the keeper’s side and if he can stay fit he should have a bright future.

Thatayaone Ditlhokwe (21)

The former Township Rollers defender joined SuperSport United in the current transfer window.

Despite turning 21 in September, Ditlhokwe has already proved he has a calm head on young shoulders, a trait that has seen him captain both Popa and the national team.

The youngster will need to show all his maturity as he enters a daunting changing room, where he will be competing against the likes of seasoned professionals Clayton Daniels, Grant Kekana and Bongani Khumalo for a starting spot.

Ditlhokwe’s time at SuperSport got off to a promising start at the weekend, when he was unexpectedly called off the bench to sure up his side’s defence in the 85th minute.

He duly did what was required off him, ensuring his team did not concede to eventually run out 2-0 winners against Amazulu.

The result leaves SuperSport in third place, ten points adrift of league leader’s Kaizer Chiefs.

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What does Nuttal bring to the treble chasing Popa?

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Botswana Premier League defending Champions Township Rollers announced their second coach of the season on Tuesday morning.

The Hamilton born football manager, Frank Nuttal has replaced Czech Republican Tomas Trucha who was given the sack a fortnight ago.

The 52 year old Scott joins the defending champions at a crucial time where they find themselves in an unfamiliar territory.

Popa are lying forth on the league table behind Security Systems and the two Debswana sponsored sides Orapa United and Galaxy FC.

The new Popa coach has no real record as a football player.

He was released by Celtic in 1987 as an apprentice and turned to studying Physical Education, graduating with a Masters Degree in Sports Science from Loughborough University.

From the age of 24 the highly ambitious Scotsman was already part of the backroom staff.

He started at West Bromwich Albion in 1998 as a fitness coach, later Rangers FC and Middlesbrough.

From 2009 to 2011, Nuttal was Chinese national team’s Assistant Manager.

He was later appointed England U17 conditioning coach from 2007 to 2011.

His first appointment as a Head Coach came in 2014, when he took charge at Kenya’s Premier League Champions Gor Mahia.

Armed with a UEFA Professional and A Licenses, he quickly established himself in Kenya as a master tactician leading his team to an unbeaten league triumph in 2015.

Gor Mahia also clinched the KPL Top 8 Cup and the Kenya Super Cup under his stewardship.

He was however fired in 2016 over a salary dispute, but was quickly snapped up by Ghanaian side Hearts of Oak in 2017 after a short stint as an assistant coach of Egyptian side Zamalek.

In his one season in Ghana he guided Hearts of Oak to a third finish in the 2017/18 championship and reached the finals of the Ghana FA Cup.

The well travelled coach also had stints in the Sudanese league with El-Hilal El-Obeid.

What then can this self made football manager bring to an ambitious club like Township Rollers?

A club who winning everything on offer has been engraved in their DNA.

Nuttal arrives at a time when his new employers are chasing on three fronts.

Rollers are eyeing a treble. The Blues have their eyes on the league, the Orange FA Cup and Mascom Top 8 Cup.

With fixtures coming in thick and fast in coming weeks, having a Sports Scientist in the technical bench may just be what the doctor ordered.

In today’s elite sports, science has become an integral part in helping athletes to fulfil their true potential.

Some advanced nations such as USA and Australia have used Sports Science, particularly sports technology to devastating effect.

A Sport Scientist’s duty is to analyse how physical activity and exercise generates health in the athlete and through detailed knowledge of systems ensures that athletes reach full potential.

It also incorporate physiology, psychology, nutrition, diet, sports technology and performance analysis.

Nuttal could just be what Rollers need in their ambition to venture into Africa.

The Gaborone West outfit qualified for the group stages of the CAF Champions league for the first time in 2018 facing record eight times Champions Al Ahly, Esperance and Kampala City Authority.

Although they won just one match, it became evident in some matches that most of the players were psychological ready for the tough encounters in Africa.

This was proven when they failed to repeat the fit the next season, tumbling out of the competition at the preliminary stages.

The Club President Jagdish Shah has made it clear that his vision is to see Rollers competing with the best in Africa’s best football showpiece.

Could the Scotsman be the man to help Rollers realise their African dream? Only time will tell.

A smile says a thousand words.

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Joel in the crown

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INTENSE TIMES

The second round of the league has begun and teams are already thinking about Top 8 finishes, relegation, survival and the Championship.

Every game is important from this moment as the table starts to take shape.

Looking at the league, anyone is capable of beating anyone on their day.

As the intensity increases we will see who will thrive and who will crumble!

GIRLS FIRE FIVE

The U/17 girls were on fire this past Friday and deserve to be applauded.

They outclassed Zimbabwe in the first leg of the World Cup Qualifier here in Gaborone.

The 5-1 scoreline was a fair reflection of the match and I must say the local lasses played some outstanding football.

I was very impressed with the level of skill on show.

The nation must get behind these talented girls, they deserve our support.

They must now go to Zim and finish off the job – we are all with you!

ORANGE EXCITEMENT

The draw for the next round of the Orange FA Cup takes place on Friday and I am excited to see who we will get.

This tournament is unique as it gives minnows a chance to rub shoulders with the big boys.

I’m sure it’s also exhilarating for the fans, who get to see the country’s top players casting their magic on some of the more rural playing fields.

GOAL PROWESS: Moyo of Police XI defending the ball from Orapa United player

Moreover, this particular competition helps teams unearth raw talent from lower divisions, which is important to the development of football in the country.

I reached the final with Rollers last time where we were humbled 3-0 by Orapa and the memory still stings. I have unfinished business in this cup!

SPANISH UNCERTAINTY

Unusually the Spanish league looks set for a four-horse race this season.

The usual suspects, Barcelona FC and Real Madrid currently top La Liga, locked together on 40 points.

Close on the Spanish giants tails are Atletico Madrid and Sevilla, who are both only five points behind.

Any of those four teams could win the title but realistically you would expect it to be between Barca and Real.

The Catalan side are struggling for confidence though and recently sacked their manager, Ernesto Valverde.

His replacement, Quique Setein has a big task on his hands.

On the other hand, Madrid have momentum after winning the League Cup, beating their city rivals in a penalty shootout on Sunday.

Whatever happens, it should be a fascinating finish!

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