Mmegi Online :: Coke Cup returns home
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Last Updated
Tuesday 20 November 2018, 13:46 pm.
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Coke Cup returns home

Extension Gunners have had to endure a long 17 years without any piece of recognised silverware.
By Staff Writer Tue 20 Nov 2018, 20:37 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Coke Cup returns home








The once-feared giants who dominated local football in the early 1990s have been on freefall. Football gods might have finally remembered the sleeping giants after Gunners overcame Mochudi Centre Chiefs in the semis of the Coca-Cola Cup to reach their first final in a decade. As fate would have it, all other stadiums have been deemed unsuitable to host the final save for the new 20,000-seater Lobatse Sports Complex, located just a stone's throw away from Gunners' home, Peleng.

Multitudes of Mapantsula fans are expected to descend on the Lobatse Sports Complex with high hopes that Gunners will lift their first piece of silverware since winning back-to-back league titles in 1992, 1993 and 1994.

Gunners were the inaugural winners of the Coca-Cola Cup back in 1992 when they defeated Francistown side, TAFIC, 3-2. They went on to lose the 1994 finals to Township Rollers, 2-0. The last time Mapantsula appeared in the cup final was in 2001 when they lost 2-0 to TASC. Exactly after 10 years and with very little expected from them in a season of mixed fortunes, Gunners find themselves in the lucrative Coke Cup final, this time against Palapye minnows, Motlakase. The lighweights have a poor history in the premier knockout competition and are making their first appearance in the final.

The circumstances are completely different from 1992 when Gunners won the first edition of the cup. The team then had the cream of the country's players in the likes of Naphtally 'Scara' Kebalebile, Jojo Mogotsi, and Itumeleng 'Tumie' Duiker. The crack side was coached by Zambian Kenny Mwape who was described as one of the greatest motivators of the time. The late Edson Muluba scored the deciding goal in the dying minutes of the game at the National Stadium to make sure Mapantsula became the first side to take the cup. Reminiscing on memories of the 1992 victory, Mogotsi said that back then, the competition was much more challenging than now because players played for nothing but pride.

"Our team had passion and we were consistent, we won the game before it even started," he said. Mogotsi tips Gunners to win tomorrow's final. He advised the players to be composed and disciplined because they already have home ground advantage.

After the glory days of the 1990s, Gunners has been through multiple generational changes in terms of players, management, and the technical team. One notable player who donned the Mapantsula colours in the past decade is Tshepo 'Talk Talk' Motlhabankwe, who, however, does not have any silverware to show for the many years he spent at the club he captained. Tomorrow's final provides the current crop with a rare platform to claim the first piece of silverware in nearly two decades. Motlhabankwe left the club for rivals, Mochudi Centre Chiefs, in 2007 where he managed to win a double the following season.

"It was disappointing at times. You would see good players coming and going without anything to show after playing for a big club like Gunners. I tell you;

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all the players I played with at Gunners gave all their best, but we were unfortunate because the club had some problems that hindered the players' achievements," Motlhabankwe said yesterday. Just like Mogotsi, he tips his former club to win the cup.

BMC coach Daniel 'Chico' Nare should be kicking himself after spending close to four seasons at Gunners where he built a formidable side only to leave in February. Nare transformed Mapantsula from perennial relegation candidates to a respectable league finish in the past three seasons. However, he left the club when cross-town rivals, BMC, lured him with a reportedly irresistible offer. The current Gunners' team is a blend of youngsters and experienced players who can guide the team to glory tomorrow. Right back, Finki "Mathousand' Mothibi and captain, Ofentse Mmipi are the longest-serving squad members.

The much-travelled goalkeeper, Raphael Nthwane, provides leadership at the back while midfield anchor, Kemmy 'Gweru' Pilato, has recaptured his old form after fumbling for a long time. Once again, diminutive striker, Hendrick Moyo and speedy winger, Kgololo Leteane, will be expected to provide the goals that will deliver Gunners the trophy. Judging by their current contribution to the team, the two seem to be the Messiahs sent to guide Mapantsula to glory. Moyo's goals in the cup have been key in Gunners' appearance in the final. He scored the winner against Nico United and Mochudi Centre Chiefs. The youngster stands a firm favourite to win the Coca-Cola Player of the Series. The Gunners' players do not need further boost for the final as playing for the club is a huge motivation on its own. Keeping in mind the team has been struggling financially, the prize money might just be the right tonic to motivate the players.

It seems the trophy is destined to where it all began: Lobatse. Gunners' elder and honorary president, Rashid Chopdat, who was at the helm during the club's hey days, could not hide his excitement ahead of the final. He said the final brought back good memories from the 1992 final. He believes tomorrow will mark the revival of Gunners when they clinch the cup. "We are very excited. The expectation is so high and the time has come for Gunners to reclaim their position as the greatest team in Botswana," he said. Gunners' supporters are expected to come from all corners of the country with three buses already confirmed from Francistown, Selebi-Phikwe and Serowe. Bottles of champagne are being readied in Lobatse where celebrations are expected to breathe life into the town tomorrow night.

Statistics favour Gunners
Mapantsula have always had it easy against the Palapye side ever since the minnows gained promotion to the Premier League in the 2009-2010 season. Gunners scored 12 goals against Motlakase while conceding only two in the previous three encounters.

09/05/2010: Gunners 4-1 Motlakase
11/12/2010: Gunners 4-0 Motlakase
18/12/2010: Gunners 4-1 Motlakase
Venue: New Lobatse Stadium
Kick off: 3.30 pm
Weather: 23 degrees Celsius, sunny intervals with possibility of light rain showers.

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