STAFF WRITER OTHUSITSE TLHOBOGANG asked Debswana to state which team the Debswana Managing Director Balisi Bonyongo will support but hit a black. What is clear though is that he will celebrate with the winner!
This season’s Mascom Top 8 finals will go down on the books of history as spectacular even before the ball is kicked – taking into account how both teams were formed and how they have risen to the very top of local game. At stake at the Francistown stadium on Saturday is P1.2 million prize money next weekend. Orapa United and Jwaneng Galaxy are meeting in a major cup final for the first time. The greatest battle will be who among the two Debswana sponsored teams is more prominent than the other. Reaching of the finals of Top 8 on its own has been history in the making. Never in the history of the Mascom Top 8 have two diamond mines supported teams reached the finals. Moved by this, the match between the two teams is likely to continue re-writing the history. To add icing on the cake while Jwaneng Galaxy will be looking to win the silverware in their maiden appearance in the Mascom Top 8, United look to defend the cup and become the first team to win it two consecutive times. Whichever team wins, history is bound to be re-written. To some, this is not supposed to be just a cup game but an eye opener to many in the football fraternity. Some analysts argue that the two teams might signal the turning point of local football teams if others could follow on their footsteps. It is important to relate to how the two teams emerged and got to the point they are currently. It has not been an easy journey for both teams. They were born from the realisation that unity is the only way forward. Previously the towns of Jwaneng and Orapa had many individual teams that not only competed against each other in the field of play but also for financial support from Debswana Diamond Company. This made things difficult for the teams to do well as resources were divided. It was only after a merger of teams in both mining towns that there was a turnaround that brought a lifeline to the clubs. The strategy seems to have worked spectacularly as United and Galaxy are currently doing well also in the league as contenders for the championships. Analysts believe that Debswana Diamond Company’s involvement in these teams has brought good out of them following their lengthy struggle.
How it all started
The two teams have more or less similar upbringing as well as sharing the sponsor being Debswana. This is one of the factors that will contribute to the interesting football expected at Francistown. Both teams’ hard work and adherence to their strategic manual have landed them where they are and the future can only be bright. Galaxy have so far not missed a step in following Orapa United’s road map. They are using the same strategy hatched by the same sponsor. It was by the shared vision of the then Orapa and Jwaneng mines General Managers that the teams in the two mining towns merged their efforts to come up with a strong team while turning others into feeders. The turnaround and dedication shown by these teams is expected to be a wakeup call for other local teams.
Though consultations started way back things fell into place in 2012 when Orapa football teams decided to put aside their differences and come together for the benefit of the community. It was in the 2012/2013 season that Orapa United was officially registered to play in the first division north. Five teams - Boteti Young Fighters, Orapa Wanderers, White Diamond, Orapa Bucks and Stallions – merged and collapsed into one entity. All this, according to team spokesperson Tebatso Hule, was to come up with one strong competitive team that would represent the Boteti region in the premier league and continentally. United were formed by people with a vision and understanding that to move forward differences have to be put aside. What is interesting is that it did not only end up at defeating the difference of the teams but of taking the team to next heights. These men and women made sure that the team also attained its set objective for the five-year period. In the first year the team was to get promotion to the premier league while in the second year it was to avoid relegation. In the third year the team was to finish in the top 8 spot and win the league or top 8 in the forth. The fifth year was set for Orapa United to take on Africa in the CAF competition. All this was attained as planned. Hule said this was because of the commitment from all those who were involved as well as support from Debswana management.
Two years after the formation of Orapa United the Jwaneng community also fielded one team in the 2014/2015 First Division South season called Jwaneng Galaxy. Galaxy came to being after the merger of the then Jwaneng teams that included Comets, Blue Diamonds and Debswana Young Stars. It was under the same strategy of trying to eliminate competition of resources among the teams that this team was formed. Galaxy seems to be following well on the footsteps of Orapa United and even better. Just like United Galaxy gained promotion to the elite league in its maiden stay at first division. In the second year of existence the team did not only manage to avoid relegation but also finished in the top 8 bracket. The quality of players and technical team that Galaxy has promises good results in future if the talent is retained.
Debswana has for a very long time involved in the development of sport in the country with millions of Pula pumped into this mission annually. Both Orapa United and Jwaneng Galaxy have been lucky to be among teams that benefited from the company’s corporate social responsibility. Debswana Corporate Affairs Manager Matshidiso Kamona said the company has been supporting the two teams in line with their commitment to leave a lasting legacy in the country with emphasis on the area around the mines. Kamona said Debswana is proud to have contributed to the building of a sense of community and excitement in both areas of Jwaneng and Orapa. The company has not been disappointed by the performance of the teams with their current performances bringing happiness to Debswana management. “The current teams’ performance has brought excitement and a sense of togetherness to the people of Boteti and Jwaneng and surrounding areas,” she said. Kamona said the aim of offering support to the teams is mainly to create best places to work and live as Jwaneng and Orapa are far away from the cities. She said it is to bring excitement and new life to Boteti and Jwaneng areas. With millions of Pula pumped into local sport Debswana does not only provide monetary support for the teams.
Kamona acknowledged that the company has also provided foresight and visionary leadership to take teams forward. This has been evident by the turnaround strategy that the company rolled out at the two clubs to become what they are. It is all joy at Debswana that both teams that the company is supporting are doing well currently. It is however not clear which team the Debswana management look more upon in this clash. For management, by virtue of reaching the finals both teams are already winners and have shown that they are a force to reckon with which is exactly what the company needs. Kamona said when Debswana sponsors a team they do so with sustainability in mind. She said they want to see local football and football teams being able to sustain themselves by making the most of the support given to them. This has always been Debswana Managing Director Balisi Bonyongo’s point. Bonyongo has in the past urged Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership to start building for a self-sustaining entity for local football to start being successful. “BFA should become a self-sustaining entity going forward because sponsors are not here to stay for ever. Right now we understand but in the coming five years or so the association must be showing signs of self-sustenance,” advised Bonyongo whose company sponsors the BFA first division league.
Apart from proper support from Debswana Orapa United and Jwaneng Galaxy pride themselves with the high quality of their technical teams. On paper the two are tightly matched. However the Mascom Top 8 match will not be won on paper. It is the technically superior side on the day that will win the cup. When Madinda Ndlovu of United and Mike Sithole Galaxy meet, technical acumen wins the day – one with best strategies for the day takes the crown. This will be the case on Saturday. Both coaches understand every well the culture of local football having coached a number of big clubs locally. Ndlovu and Sithole also know the ingredients of winning cups. Ndlovu, who was voted the coach of the year during last year’s Top 8 edition after leading United to its maiden silverware, has won a number of trophies locally. The Zimbabwean gaffer has won the league title consecutively with Township Rollers. Ndlovu also won a league trophy with Mochudi Centre Chiefs prior to heading to United. On the other hand the well-travelled Sithole has also won trophies with Centre Chiefs. When he got to Galaxy the team was struggling at the bottom of the log and he turned the fortunes around. The team now is currently contending for winning the BTC premiership honours as well as the Mascom Top 8 trophy. And now we await the winner of the Saturday game…