This year's event will be the seventh and promises to be a different ball game altogether. On what promises to be fun and action, four of the country's best teams will be given a chance to show their mettle.
Notwane, Extension Gunners, Tasc and Township Rollers will fight it out for the ultimate prize in this one-day fiesta. Tasc are newcomers to this year's event while Gunners are making a return after missing out last year. Missing from this year's Cup are the defending champions, Gaborone United, who failed to make it to the top four along with Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
In the first semi-final scheduled for 10am, Notwane takes on Extension Gunners in what promises to be a pulsating clash. Notwane boasts of a colourful record, though they have not been playing entertaining football of late. Despite having some of the best players around, they have never emerged victorious in this tourney, even after playing in three finals. On the other hand, Gunners are record holders of this cup, having won it three times in 1996, 1998 and 2001. However, recently, the Lobatse arsenal have failed to stamp their authority in cup games. Toronto have been Gunners' hoodoo side and whether that will change tomorrow remains to be seen. Last season, Notwane humiliated Mapantsula 7-2 in Lobatse before settling for a goalless draw at the same venue they will be meeting at tomorrow.
Speaking to Mmegi Sport yesterday, Toronto captain, Phadza Butale, said that his team was ready to bring their Kabelano jinx to an end. "We have never missed this cup but we're still to win it. The right time has to be tomorrow," he said. Butale warned people not to judge them by their not so thrilling performance against Tasc last weekend saying they will be a different team. Butale said that judging by Gunners performance against Police XI last weekend, they won't encounter any problems in beating them. Notwane have a number of talented players in their team who could easily beat Gunners. Though he was sent off against Tasc in the Coke Cup last weekend, right back Mpoeleng "Stopper" Mpoeleng will be part of the team that will face Mapantsula in the morning. Fabian Zulu did not train on Monday because of the flu, but is expected to be fit for the tournament, while key striker, Thato Siska made a surprise comeback this week. On his day, Siska can terrorise any defence and Gunners need no introduction.It was in the same tournament last year that he exposed Mochudi Centre Chiefs defence of Ofentse Motlogelwa and James Tshekedi. Another plus for Notwane is that their Under 20 players, Gobonyeone Selefa and Dirang Moloi will be available. The duo have been in camp preparing for tonight's encounter against Angola and will be released immediately after the game to their respective teams. Dirang and his elder brother, Pontsho, can be match winners and will hopefully rise to the occasion on the day.
Though they have been hit by in-house problems, Mapantsula have warned Toronto not to undermine them. "We'll beat them when they least expect it," said Gunners' captain, Stanford Sebeetswekgomo. He urged the Peleng Glamour Boys' supporters to come in large numbers to rally behind them. "We might be out of the Coca Cola Cup but we'll surely not disappoint them," he said. Gunners will go into tomorrow's spectacular without midfielder, Tshepo "Schoolboy" Molefe, who is reported to have joined Tafic. However, Mapantsula have a talented team and with the likes of Othusitse "Spheto" Mahube, Trevor Moisaraele, Tshepo "Talk-talk" Motlhabankwe, Sebeetswekgomo and Amos "Shoes" Godirwang, they can reach the finals.
At midday, newcomers Tasc take on Rollers. The Francistown based outfit surprised many people when they qualified for the cup ahead of Centre Chiefs and Gaborone United. They not only qualified, they topped the votes. Tango Boys vice captain Mosimanegape Mosala, said his side was geared up for battle tomorrow. The Tasc skipper said since this will be their maiden appearance, they would like to leave a lasting impression. "I urge our supporters to come in numbers," said Mosala. Coach Seth Moleofi will tomorrow rely on Tebogo Mothusi, Ernest Amos, Victor Watlala and Ramateke "Socco" Ramosoka to deliver. But if the Tasc mentor entertains beating Rollers, he should push Mothusi into the middle of the field. Against Notwane, Mothusi was given a tough task of defending and this left them with no creativity in the mid-field.
Rollers captain Noah "Stooge" Kareng said though they respect their opponents, they will proceed to the finals. Interestingly, Kareng has featured in the finals of this annual spectacular. "We've a reputation to protect, which we don't want to spoil," he said. Rollers last lost an official game in December when they were beaten by Cosmos Blizzards. This, a great achievement, has been ignored by many people. Rollers have boosted their team with the signing of former Centre Chiefs defender, James Tshekedi and talented midfielder, Tintos Raditsebe from Mahalapye United Hotspurs. Raditsebe is likely to make a much awaited return to Rollers colours against Tasc. Coach, Banks Panene has a chance of fielding two different sides if he reaches the finals because his team has depth. Key players in the Rollers team are Kareng, Moemedi "Jomo" Moatlhaping, Patrick Mathaba, Phenyo Mongala and Thebeetsile Raditsebe. The finals will be played at 4pm and there will be entertainment between 2pm and 4pm by South African and local artists like Trompies, Mandoza, Dyvine and Wizards of the Desert. Mandoza came in as a replacement for Malaika who are performing at a charity function in Johannesburg tomorrow.
The winners will take home P45 000 while the runners-up will be given P27 500. The losers will be rewarded with P15 000 each.
Meanwhile Kabelano Trust Chairperson, Terrence Dambe, has once again assured fans that there will be tight security tomorrow. "We never compromise when it comes to security, though at times there are limitations," said Dambe. He urged spectators to come well in time to avoid long queues at the gates. The gates at the stadium open at 8am. There will be a curtain raiser between Orange Ladies and Botswana Television Ladies before the first semi final at 10am.
The first 1 000 patrons to arrive at the stadium will be given Orange labelled T-Shirts and caps.
Tickets started selling on Tuesday in Gaborone, Lobatse, Mochudi and Francistown. They are selling at P30 and P20 for the grand and open stands respectively.
The past winners of the Kabelano Cup since its inception are; 1996-Gunners, 1997-Centre Chiefs, 1998-Gunners, 2001-Gunners, 2002-Rollers and 2003-Gaborone United.