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Rough diamonds

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Orapa and Galaxy clash again after fractious first-leg

Having come to blows in a bad-tempered first leg two weeks ago, diamond brothers Orapa United and Jwaneng Galaxy go to war again this Saturday.

With a place in the Mascom Top8 final up for grabs, and the tie evenly poised at 1-1, tensions are expected to rise once again.

An absorbing opening encounter descended into chaos midway through the second half when a mass on-field brawl broke out between the two teams.

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

The unseemly scuffle overshadowed what had been a high quality affair, which Galaxy briefly led courtesy of a 19th minute strike from Lesenya Malepela.

Orapa hit back five minutes later, Lawrence Ndunga finding the back of the net to send the Ostriches travelling supporters home happy.

They will now look to finish the job at Itekeng Stadium. Having beaten Galaxy 2-0 at the same venue in the league back in December, the boys from Boteti know exactly what it takes to beat their Jwaneng-based siblings.

However, the teams go into Saturday’s clash on the back of mixed results.

Orapa fell to a surprise 2-0 defeat at home to Gaborone United whilst Galaxy thrashed BR Highlanders 4-0 to replace their diamond brothers at the top of the league.

Speaking to Voice Sport, Galaxy’s charismatic captain, Thabo Leinanyane said reaching a third Top8 final is one of their priorities for the season.

“Our aim is to reach the finals and we are not going to allow Orapa to deny us that opportunity. We are going all the way to Itekeng for a win,” declared the no-nonsense right back, whose side are looking to become the first team to defend their title in the lucrative competition’s nine-year history.

Paying homage to his opponents, the 26-year-old added, “Orapa are a very strong side, especially when they are home as their pitch is small. But we are not going to give them space to play as they can be lethal at times.

“In addition, the boys morale is high because we coming into the game on the back of a great win. But we will put that to the back of our minds because we now in a cup competition and we have to win it.”

Leinanyane’s opposite number, centerback Thabang Mosige told Voice Sport confidence amongst the squad was high.

“We are more than ready for Galaxy as we have been hard at work. The mood in camp is also impressive. Furthermore, we are not going to play a defensive approach which we adopted when we went to Jwaneng. We are going to attack them until the final because we want to be in that final as well.”

Quizzed on the side’s shock loss to GU and the impact it might have, Mosige responded immediately, “For now our focus is to win against Galaxy this weekend in cup competition, and GU loss is now in the past. We plan to beat Galaxy and go through to the finals.”

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A dream deferred

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CORONA PUTS SLOVAKIA ON HOLD FOR LOCAL DUO

The chance of a lifetime, to play domestic football in Europe, has been put on hold for two local ladies as the coronavirus pandemic keeps its killer claws wrapped tightly around world sport.

National team players, goalkeeper Sedilame Bosija and striker Reilwe Tholakele were meant to leave for a four-month trial with top Slovakian side Partizan Bardejov at the start of March.

The try-outs were scheduled to run until 30 June, as the duo looked to secure contracts with the Division One outfit.

That dream has been deferred, for now.

The pioneering pair were identified by Bardejov after impressing during the national team’s training camp in Slovakia last year.

The Mares had travelled to the landlocked Central European nation as part of their preparations for the Olympic Qualifiers.

It proved to be an apt choice.

Shortly after their return from the West, the ladies famously went on to knock South Africa out in the second round of qualifying, beating their mighty neighbours 3-2 on penalties after the two-legged tie finished goalless.

23-year-old Bosija starred in the match, brilliantly saving two penalties to cap a heroic performance.

Although the journey would ultimately end in a narrow loss to Zambia in the next round, the victory over a South African side who had competed at the World Cup just a month earlier remains a milestone in local sport.

For the trail-blazing Bosija, making history is nothing new.

The Tutume-born shot stopper became the first Motswana lady to play in the South African league when leading club Bloemfontein Celtic snatched her up in 2017.

RISING HIGH: Bosija

Bosija’s three-year contract with Celtic came to an end last December and she remains anxious to explore new opportunities.

Tholakele, meanwhile, has made her name at the other end of the pitch.

The 24-year-old Township Rollers forward is a natural goal-scorer and has led the line for the national team for many years now.

Tholakele’s speed and strength, combined with her clever movement make her a nightmare for defenders to play against.

Speaking to Voice Sport this week, a disappointed Bosija said she had no doubt that both herself and Tholakele would have excelled at Bardejov.

“It is unfortunate that we could not travel because of this world disaster. But the deal still stands and we are hopeful this shall pass and we will be able to go.”

Indeed, the dedicated keeper revealed she is working hard on her fitness to ensure she is ready to pounce when her chance arrives.

“I am currently training every day in the afternoon to keep fit and national team Goalkeeper Coach Thabo Motang is facilitating the training. There was another team in Czech Republic which was interested in signing me but the Slovakian one was quick to send a letter. We agreed with our agent Moran Nthoiwa to go there and the team was to pay our four-month stay expenses,” explained Bosija, who started playing football as an 11-year-old at Monarch Primary School in Francistown.

Originally Bosija began as a striker but, fortunately for Botswana football, fate was to intervene.

“One day during school ball games our goalkeeper was absent and my teammate, Tshiamo Manuel advised me to take the position. We lost 1-0 but the coach was impressed by my performance and so I continued in goal.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

“We qualified to represent the Francistown region in the nationals where I was identified by Tshepo Mphukuthi who called me for U13 camp. I was very consistent in my performance and played for U15, U17, U20 and now senior national team. I played for Rollers from 2013 to 2015 and in 2016 I joined Double Action where I played for few months before I was signed by Celtic,” summarised Bosija, who was quick to thank the Botswana Football Association (BFA) for their part in her rise.

It is a rise that for now must come to a standstill.

The next chapter, however, should make for fascinating reading!

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BNOC to call off camp

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LOC to meet with affected federations

Following the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to next year due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) is mulling the idea of calling off camp.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and the Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo took a decision on Tuesday to reschedule the Olympic Games to the summer of 2021.

The decision was made to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.

Likewise, BNOC held an emergency meeting on Wednesday and the Local Organising Committee has been tasked with meeting with management from the affected sporting codes to deliver the outcome of the meeting before an official announcement is made.

Voice Sport has been reliably informed that while many agreed that it made sense to break camp due to cost implications, federations are however worried about their athletes who are likely to lose form.

Athletes who have already qualified and many still chasing their qualification berth went in to camp in November last year.

The camp comprises of athletes from athletics, boxing, weight lifting and swimming.

Speaking to Voice Sport on Wednesday evening, a worried BNOC Chief Executive Officer Tuelo Serufho said an official announcement will be made after LOC has met with concerned federations. Serufho told Voice Sport that they find themselves between a rock and a hard place as they currently don’t know whether IOC will extend the qualifying period, or what lies in store for those who’ve already qualified.

According to the previous schedule athletics and boxing qualifiers were to go on until the end of June while judo and swimming were scheduled up until the end of July.

Serufho said BNOC is worried that athletes will lose form since there will be no competitions unless the CoronaVirus scare subsides.

“What are we going to do to sustain their performance since they are not allowed to train as a team?” Serufho asked rhetorically.

He revealed to Voice Sport that due to the suspension of sporting activities they had to cancel their plans of sending athletes to a High Performance Center in South Africa.

“Some of our athletes were scheduled to go for a training session in Europe at the end of June,” he said.

Over the weekend two athletes Baboloki Thebe and Onkabetse Nkobolo were involved in a car accident after they sneaked out of camp for a boozy night out.

Quizzed on measures they have in place to ensure that all athletes follow their coaches training programmes to remain fit and disciplined, Serufho could only say they will discuss the issue with Federations.

“Botswana Athletics Association is currently investigating the incident involving those two athletes and they are expected to give BNOC a full report,” said Serufho.

Botswana is still looking to add to her only Olympic success, a 2012 Silver medal won by 800m sprinter Nijel Amos at the London Summer Olympics.

The 2021 Olympics offers the nation another opportunity a rare but greatly desired podium finish.

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