Rollers attain historic feat

  • Becomes the first Botswana side to make it to group stages of the CAF Champions League
  • Are P5.5 million richer
  • Decidedly on a roll, ‘Popa’ presently have their small hairs trained on BTC premier league

Tlotlo Kebinakgabo

Township Rollers supporters are ecstatic that their team is the first Botswana football club to make it to the group stages of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League.

The 14-time league champions accomplished the historic feat after playing to a goalless draw against Tanzania’s Young Africans in the second leg of their CAF Champions League encounter that was played at a nearly choc-a-block National Stadium on Sunday.

The result means that ‘Popa,’ as Rollers is more popularly known, progresses to the group stages with a 2-1 aggregate win and becomes the first-ever team to do so in the annals of football in Botswana.

Coming into the encounter, they defeated Young Africans 2-1 in the first leg of the CAF Champions League second round that was played in Tanzania three weeks ago. Before knocking out the East Africans, ‘Popa’ had shown that they had every intention to make a mark on African football by eliminating Al Merrikh of Sudan, abolishing the latter’s hopes with a 4-2 aggregate win.

‘Popa’s’ qualification for the group stages of the lucrative CAF Champions League guarantees them a fee not less USD550 000 USD that translates into a whopping BWP5.5 million, a figure that could rise, depending on how the current Mascom Top 8 champions perform in the group stages.

Speaking with reporters after the encounter, Township Rollers coach Nikola Kavazovic said his team’s qualification was not a surprise to him. “This is something we have been preparing for and committing to for the past eight months,” Kavazovic said.

“It’s not a surprise to me (that) Rollers can now be counted among Africa’s giants because we have eliminated the best teams. However, winning the CAF title could be an unattainable goal for us because we do not have the facilities and the budget to do so.”

In the meantime, said the elated gaffer, the focus now shifts to the BTC premiership league where Rollers have “a very good chance” of winning it. They currently occupy the second spot with points equal the top-placed Jwaneng Galaxy’s at 46, but Rollers with a game in hand.

Said Rollers assistant captain, Joel Mogorosi: “The season is almost over at a time when we have attained our goals. We wanted to win the Mascom Top 8 and make it into the group stages of the CAF Champions League. Winning the league will be a bonus for us. We are going to keep fighting because we have a good chance of winning it.”

Mogorosi commended their supporters for coming in high numbers. “They were really amazing and we urge them to keep up the spirit because with their support we can surprise many in the group stage matches.”

The draw of the group stages is scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday) in Egypt where 16 teams will be seeded into four groups to see which eight teams will make it to the quarterfinals. The group stage games are expected to be played between 4 May and 29 August.

Other teams that have already qualified for the group stages thus far are MC Alger, 1º de Agosto, TP Mazembe, Al-Ahly, Horoya, Difaâ El Jadidi, Wydad Casablanca, Mbabane Swallows, Étoile du Sahel and KCCA. Mamelodi Sundowns, Zesco United, Kampala City, AS Togo-Port and Esperance de Tunis also makes the list.