The closure of BCL Mine in 2017 saw a cloud of uncertainty envelope the once vibrant mining town. Football fans’ hopes were shattered as one-by-one, clubs crumbled under the heavy effects of the economic collapse, but while the smoke from the BCL chimney stack has died, there is a flicker of hope elsewhere, writes MQONDISI DUBE
Selebi-Phikwe was once a vibrant football town. It was not necessarily the cradle of football, a title, which still belongs to Gaborone, the capital city, which possesses all the lure and glitter for players.
The former copper and nickel town has not hit the same success that its diamond-producing counterparts, Orapa and Jwaneng have registered, but at its peak, football had a religious following.
Now fans are left with nostalgia, reminiscing how the derby between FC Satmos and Nico United will bring the small town to a standstill as fans soaked in 90 minutes of absorbing football.
They will not forget when a limping Township Rollers show rolled into town in 2003, a game that resulted in the relegation of Popa, thanks to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Majombolo.
Fans will not forget when a Richard Legwaila-orchestrated show, saw Nico United humble Mochudi Centre Chiefs 3-0 in the semifinals of the Mascom Top 8.
There was the sight of an unrelenting supporter, always clad in mine regalia from top to toe. He was an epitome of resilience, following the team during rainy and sunny days.
This spirit reverberated across town, as Nico became the dominant side, while Satmos accepted the supporting cast role.
With BCL Mine in full flourish, driven by rising commodity prices, Nico also upped the ante on the pitch.
Nico received generous hand-outs from BCL employees, and the company provided solid backing.
The team failed to land a major trophy, but there was notable progress, at one stage threatening a league upset.
But with the heart-wrenching news of BCL winding up operations in 2016, the agony for football fans was palpable. Most activities ground to a halt as the giant company folded.
Nico was left vulnerable, and the ramifications
While the First Division North season is still young, there are encouraging signs for Majombolo, who have had a bright start to the campaign.
They have maximum points from two matches, which launched their fans into dreamland.
There is still a further 20 matches and 60 points to play for, but thoughts of a Premier League return might be flooding back.
However, the gremlins that forced Nico out of the top flight are still lurking.
But for now the Nico family is enjoying the run while it lasts.
“Our changes have been brought about by commitment from the players, technical team, management and the few supporters who have been with us through thick and thin, even though that is not enough. We are dying for the badge, it means a lot. We want to take the people’s team to where it belongs,” Nico public relations officer, Nib Kedikilwe said.
Kedikilwe admits that the club is still deep in the financial woods.
“It is tough. We rely on pledges from Good Samaritans, even to raise funds. Our target is to take the team back to the elite league. First Division is tough, there are no monthly grants and gate takings are not enough to sustain the team,” he said.
Kedikilwe said if the team wins promotion back to the Premier League, they would come up with a model that would sustain their stay.
“We have Nico supporters and businessmen out there who can assist this team to compete in the elite league. For now we are perched at the top. We want to take each game as it comes, no pressure.”