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Shootout in the south

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*Top two clash in First Division South

Saturday is set to be a defining day in the Debswana First Division South as the top two teams clash in Mogoditshane.

The race for promotion to the Premier League took an unexpected twist last weekend when league-leader’s Masitaoka suffered a 1-0 loss at home to relegation-threatened Jwaneng Fighters.

The result, Masitaoka’s first defeat after a run of seven consecutive victories, combined with Mogoditshane Fighters’ emphatic 3-1 destruction of Matebejana means Maja Tlhaga’s lead at the top is down to just two points.

It adds even more weight to a fixture that pits the league’s best defence – Masitaoka have conceded eight goals in 15 outings – against its best attack – Mogoditshane have found the back of the net 21 times.

The last time the two sides met, back in October, Mogoditshane ran out 2-1 winners. Another close contest is expected at the dusty Solomon Dihutso grounds on Saturday.

Speaking to Voice Sport this week, respected local pundit Kagiso Phatsimo admitted that, with seven games still left to play, the title race is too close to call.

Phatsimo was quick to praise the high-flying Molepolole outfit, who only secured their place in the second tier at the start of the season by buying Black Peril’s league status.

“Masitaoka has been the most impressive team in the league thus far. Their coach, Nelson Olebile, is calm and knows exactly what he is doing!” noted Phatsimo, describing Maja Tlhaga’s loss to Jwaneng as ‘an eye-opener’.

Turning his attention to a Mogoditshane side looking to return to the elite league after a seven-year absence, the footie expert said, “I cannot rule out Fighters because they are one of the most experienced team when it comes to First Division Football.”

As for Saturday’s top of the table encounter, Phatsimo expects the league leader’s to claim the points.

“It is entirely upon Masitaoka to bounce back to winning ways but it is not going to be easy against Fighters. It is a tough match to predict but I foresee Masitaoka walking away with this one.”

As for the state of the First Division South, an impressed Phatsimo said, “I think FDS is better organised than the BTC Premiership, where there are constant and unnecessary changes of fixtures. The quality that we see every weekend [in the FDS] encourages fans to come to the matches – the grounds are always packed!”

A big crowd is certainly anticipated for a showdown in the south with potentially epic consequences.

FDS WEEKEND FIXTURES

(All games to be played Saturday)

Jwaneng Fighters v Ncojane Young Stars

Holy Ghost v Mochudi Rovers

Mochudi Centre Chiefs v Matebejana

Broadhurst United v Black Forest

Union Flamengo Santos v Red Sparks

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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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