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Stopping shots for Notwane

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Keeper’s heroics provides light amid Toronto’s darkness

While much of the attention has been on Notwane FC’s lack of firepower up front – they have now failed to score in six consecutive games – 28-year-old Mabitso Rapowa has been a busy man in Toronto’s goal.

The well-travelled shot-stopper was at his brilliant best on Saturday, pulling off a number of world class saves to hold Gaborone United to a goalless draw and earn Notwane their first point of the season.

Rapowa’s heroics marked the latest eye-catching performance from a keeper who, up until this season, had spent most of his career in the lower leagues of Botswana football.

And whilst Notwane’s struggles this season are well documented – they currently sit rock bottom of the Premier League on -5 points – Rapowa has undoubtedly been the club’s stand out player.

To put the Thamaga native’s form into context, he has conceded the same number of goals (seven in six matches) as second-placed Township Rollers.

Speaking to Voice Sport immediately after the Gaborone derby, Rapowa admitted his journey to the top has been a tough one.

Having helped Notwane gain promotion to the Premier League in 2018, he was released by the club and spent last season with Gilport Lions in the First Division South.

However, Toronto realised the error of their ways and re-signed the glove-man at the start of the season.

“My football career was not as smooth as one may think because I was part of the team that helped Notwane FC to get promoted to the elite league recently but somehow I was released. But I returned with a very strong character to finally be in the team and play regularly in the highest level of domestic football in the country,” said the keeper, who counts Thamaga Swallows, Thamaga Shooting Stars, Sua Flamingoes and Black Forest amongst his former clubs.

Quizzed about his ambitions as a player and his role model, Rapowa replied immediately, “I grew up watching the German and Barcelona goalkeeper, Marc Andre Ter Stegen – I want to be like him!

“According to me, he is one of the best shot-stoppers in the world. Moreover, it is every player’s dream to represent his country at national level despite difficult competition that I face from other goalkeepers in the country!”

Turning his attention to Notwane’s current predicament, Rapowa stressed they were hard at work on the training ground in a bid to end their goal drought, which now stretches to nine hours of football.

“This situation we are in is bad and it has really affected us as players. But we are working really hard to find our goal scoring boots. That has simply been our main focus, every training session we work on scoring goals and I hope things work out just fine for us because time is not on our side as well. We need to start firing those goals and win matches to get out of the imminent relegation zone!”

As Notwane go on the hunt for goals in the coming weeks, Rapowa will be doing his best to keep them out.

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Zebras go with the Floh

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Youth and experience lead the line

The exuberance of youth and the craft of experience will be tasked with spearheading the Zebras attack as the long road to Cameroon begins in Zimbabwe today (Friday 15 November).

Security Systems veteran forward, Kenanao ‘Floh’ Kgetholetsile, 36, and Extension Gunners speedy striker, 22-year-old Misani Thupa make for an unlikely partnership.

However, the pair will be hoping they can fire the goals that get Botswana’s 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign off to a winning start.

First up is a Zimbabwe side oozing with both talent and confidence. The Warriors squad boasts the likes of Belgian-based winger Knowledge Musona and Kaiser Chiefs midfield star, Khama Billiat.

The trip to Harare is followed by Monday’s home fixture against reigning AFCON champions Algeria. Led by Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez, the North Africans will be confident of victory.

TALENTED: Thupa

Speaking to Voice Sport recently, Kgetholetsile revealed that even though time was not on his side, he never gave up on his dream of playing for Botswana.

“My love for football began from a very tender age with a sole dream of representing my country at national competitions at some point. However, it happened at a later stage because of unforeseen circumstances which were beyond my control and they made me to be the strong player I have become at the moment,” declared the dreadlocked goal machine.

On the other hand, Thupa’s call up has come early in his rapidly rising career.

“I grew up with parents who were always in my neck to get an education. Finally, I was able to complete my studies and started playing football regularly until I came to Gunners,” he said, describing his selection for the national team as the proudest moment of his fledgling career.

Goals proved hard to come by in the Zebras last effort at qualifying for AFCON. In a disastrous six-game campaign which yielded just one point, Keegile’s Kone’s fourth minute strike in a 2-1 loss to Mauritania was the only time Botswana found the back of the net.

Between them, Floh and Thupa will look to provide fresh impetus to the Zebras stale attack.

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Joel in the crown

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REIGNITING THE SPIRIT OF 2012

For many years we have been drawn in tricky qualifying groups but we always try our best to come up with the necessary results.

Taking you back to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) held in Gabon, for the qualifiers we were in the group of death, which included Tunisia and Togo, but we managed to qualify anyway.

That is the spirit the boys need coming into these crucial encounters, first against Zimbabwe and then Algeria, who are the defending AFCON champions and include Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez in their ranks.

A STRONG SQUAD – DESPITE MY OMISSION!

Honestly, Coach Adel Amarouche has selected a good team. He has picked in-form players who are all doing well for the respective clubs.

Amarouche has a clear strategy and knows exactly how he wants the guys to play.

ZEBRAS COACH: Amarouche

Also, I have no hard feelings for not being called up to the team because others deserve the same chance that I once got.

We just need to support those who have been given the nod to represent the country.

CHILLYBOY’S RED HOT APPOINTMENT

Congratulations to Chillyboy! Truly speaking, he deserves this appointment and I believe he will excel.

We have always wanted a youthful figure who will address our problems as local athletes in efforts to grow our sports.

However, footballers need to understand Chillyboy is not only there for football but all sporting codes.

Anyway, I say this again, the man was not chosen by mistake but by merit!

LIVERPOOL’S SIZZLING START

Liverpool FC were excellent at the weekend, hammering the defending champions Manchester City 3-1 in a truly remarkable game at Anfield.

The Reds are now eight points clear at the top and their players are showing the hunger required to win the Premier League for the first time in the club’s glittering history.

Regardless of the opponents they face, Liverpool always go for the win.

Jurgen Klopp has got them playing wonderful football and I must admit it’s a pleasure to watch – although as an Arsenal fan that’s difficult to say!

OUTCLASSED BY GALAXY

Jwaneng Galaxy are a very good, consistent team.

Their squad have been together for a long time, they complement each other well and deliver high class performances week in week out.

It certainly showed in our 3-1 loss to them last Wednesday when we were sadly second best.

Nevertheless, we took the loss to our drawing board and I am confident we will come back stronger.

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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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