Dismissed as a bold gamble that was destined to fail, Orapa United are ditching competitors and doubting Thomases with equal measure, demonstrating at every victory that pulling together resources works much better than independent efforts. OTHUSITSE TLHOBOGANG reports
Giant-killers Orapa United are shaming sceptics after busting into the title chasing crew with a string of outstanding results. They are now second to Mochudi Centre Chiefs and have a chance of taking the title to the diamond mining town for the very first time.
When the Orapa United project started in 2011 only a few people trusted it was in the best interest of the town to go that route – creating one team for the premier league by combining all other teams that were in town at the time.
Three years down the line the project’s success is being felt across the premier league. People have begun taking note. Teams are now under severe pressure to take extra-preparation classes ahead of every clash with them. Orapa United are currently second on the log standings, just three points behind leaders Mochudi Centre Chiefs and a point ahead of 3rd placed Township Rollers.
Soccer analysts are now singing praises for the project. Analyst Jimmy George insisted that the decision to start the Orapa United project was the best ever to be made. Because of that a formidable team has come into existence, he appreciated.
Following a long spell of unsatisfactory results from the town’s teams, the managers decided on a bold move of dissolving and delisting the teams from different leagues to launch one formidable team. Being a small township with five teams, sports leaders in Orapa realised the teams were competing for resources and supporters which hindered their progression and success. It was because of this reason that Orapa United was formed.
According to the team’s spokesperson Tebatso Hule, the main purpose of the formation was to come up with one strong competitive team that would represent the Boteti region in the premier league. “It was not only for the team to represent the region but to also challenge for the premier league championship,” explained Hule.
In the past not a single Orapa team went to the premier league and stayed, all relegated in one season. However, currently Orapa United have re-written the history by managing to stay for two seasons with no signs of going down anytime soon.
Hule said if the project was to be measured at the moment the results will show that it is indeed a success. He said the team is achieving exactly what they have wanted it to achieve when it was started. When they started during the 2012/13 season in the first division north the main aim was to play in the premier league the next season and the team achieved just that.
In the 2013/14 season all the team wanted was to get accustomed to the elite football in the premier league and avoid relegation. “We did not do badly last season as we managed to avoid relegation and this year we are doing very well as we have acclimatised to this league,” said Hule. George concurred with him, saying Orapa United are currently doing very well and if they could manage to keep this momentum they will go places.
According to Hule, at the start of this season their aim was to finish in the Top 8 bracket. They have now re-adjusted due to the good performance of the team and are now aiming for a Top 4 finish. The possibility of winning the league is however not ruled out.
The emergence of teams such as Orapa United is seen as a good development that could help to steer up competition in local football. For a long time only a few teams have been exchanging the league championship baton but the rising of other strong teams can put this to an end. According to George, the presence of Orapa United may bring about better competition in league as well as in local football arena.
“The team is still new but it is promising to go places. They have the potential to fight for the fourth spot and maybe in the future they will do well to challenge for the championship. They are in the right direction at the moment and have a decent team to do this,” said George. However, the sport analyst pointed that this will mean the Orapa-based team will have to have a player buying power to outclass top-placed teams such as Rollers and Chiefs.
He said no matter how good a team is it needs to be upgraded every now and then. ‘The Ostriches’ as Orapa United are affectionally known have tried to address this during last month’s transfer window. They have been able to buy quality players, a move that brought stability to the team. They struggled a bit in the first round but now seem to be firing from all cylinders.
The merging of Orapa teams has opened up opportunities for them as now resources are channelled to only one team. The team now is able to take care of their players well and provide proper infrastructure for them. This, according to Hule, is what keeps the team going because the welfare of the players is their priority.
Even though the management is now planning to extend Project Orapa United to the rest of Boteti region it is not only them who benefit from it but the rest of the country. This project has inspired some areas to take initiative to merge their clubs to form a much stronger team as well. A clear example of this is what happened in the mining town of Jwaneng.
Sports administrators in Jwaneng saw the potential of this project and followed the footsteps of Orapa to form Jwaneng Galaxy. Their team is also at the moment doing very well in the first division south and are looking to move to elite league as well.
The move of merging of clubs has even received the blessings of Botswana Football Association (BFA) technical director Benny Kgomela. He said having one team in an area helps with easy funding since resources will be directed to only one team.
This also opens the possibility of having developmental sides since all resources will be channelled to one team as opposed to many teams, he noted. “This will help to produce quality players at a younger age. These players will then make a strong team when they break into the first 11,” explained the technical director.
However, even though George also sees this move as a good one he warned that people should not be confused to think this would work for them as well. He warned that the success of this demands management and harnessing of resources. And hence, he said, not every place needs to have one team.