Needle at fever point as Mascom Top 8 final nears

  • The ‘Ostriches’ to battle it out with ‘Popa’ for P 1.3 million

Tlotlo Kebinakgabo

All roads lead to Francistown this Saturday when Orapa United clash with Township Rollers in the Mascom Top 8 Season 7 final.

The much-awaited encounter is scheduled to kick off at 3:30pm at Francistown Sports Complex.

It will be the second time that the two teams face each other in the final of the high-stakes tournament. They did so in 2015/16 edition in which the ‘Ostriches’ lambasted Popa 3-1 to claim the crown with goals from Ronald Chikomo, Thabang Sesinyi and Onkabetse Makgantai.

Popa’s sole goal was scored by Segolame Boy but this weekend’s final is anticipated to be a totally different one.

Playing in their third consecutive final, the ‘Ostriches,’ as Orapa United are affectionately known, earned their place after dumping Gaborone United in the semi-finals, walloping ‘The Reds’ a resounding 5-1 on aggregate. Before taking GU out of the way, the ‘Ostriches’ had eliminated Security Systems with a 2-1 aggregate win in the quarterfinals.

Bongani Mafu’s charges have a bloodthirsty record against azure blue boys of Rollers in the Mascom Top 8 tournament. Apart from defeating them in the 2015/16 final, they also tossed them out of the 2016/17 semis.

The ‘Ostriches’ are pinning their hopes on players like Kobamelo Kebaikanye and Thabang Mosige, both of whom have proved reliable in the tournament thus far, to emerge victorious.

Kebaikanye has three goals and will be aiming to claim the yellow boot. The current top goal scorer of the tournament is GU’s Obonye Maome with five goals.

Says Orapa United mouthpiece, Kabo Wills: “We are delighted to be in our third consecutive final. We are going to try by all means to win the cup in order to show that we haven’t qualify for all these finals by default. Yes, we may have lost to Jwaneng Galaxy in last year’s final but this one is going to be a totally different ball game. Rollers are a big team and playing against them is a motivator on its own. Our players know what to do.”

Having won the tournament in its debut in 2011/12, ‘Popa’ as Rollers are otherwise known, paved their way to the final by defeating BDF XI 3-0 on aggregate in the quarter finals before seeing Jwaneng Galaxy out by an away goal rule in the semis with an aggregate score of 3-3.

‘Popa,’ being well aware that they have made it to four of the past six Mascom Top 8 finals but have claimed the crown only once, will be aiming to end their bad run at this stage of the tournament. Players like Motsholetsi Sikele and Mosha Gaolaolwe are expected to be instrumental in ensuring that ‘Popa’ claim the tournament for the second time. Sikele is the team’s top goal scorer in the tournament with two goals.

Says Rollers pro Phempheretlhe Pheto: “We know that we have a bad record against Orapa United in this tournament but it is our aim to win this this time around. History must just be put aside because this final is a matter of different players and coaches on both sides. It is a totally different game.”

The winner of the tournament will walk away with P 1.3 million whereas the runners ups will take home P550 000. Both teams will be aiming to equal GU’s feat of winning the tournament twice.