Just over a decade ago, a youthful Uniao Flamengo Santos won the club's first major title, lifting the Coca-Cola Cup.The team had to overcome a number obstacles and The Monitor Sport Correspondent, KABELO BORANABI looks at their bumpy journey to a historic moment and their influence on the clubs now turning to young talents.
In 2008, Santos reached the Coke cup final but learnt the hard way as they were trashed into smithereens by Mochudi Centre Chiefs. In their second final a year later, Santos walked away with a trophy after a 4-2 win over BDF XI after penalty shootouts.
However, their journey to the final was not an easy one with odds against them. Santos, as the tournament neared its peak, took what looked like a drastic decision then to part ways with head coach, Gishion Ntini. The Zimbabwean tactician had taken the team to the final of the competition just less than a year earlier.
Following that, Clever Hunda was roped in. But he had a rude welcome at the team as he clashed with a number of senior players including Vincent Phiri and Pius Kolagano who were later suspended for misconduct.
Hunda, in search of a winning formula, turned to the youngsters whilst due to financial constraints had to work with a rather thinner squad, earning his side the nickname 'Ma-14'. Heading into the quarterfinals of the cup and closing in a respectable league position, Hunda looked to enjoy his early days at the club.
However, the team had to face a bigger task in the quarterfinals as they faced Township Rollers in a classic David vs Goliath cup clash. 'Ma-14' were not given a chance against Popa, but proved a hard nut to crack as they won the clash to book a semifinal.
Worry once again cast over the Gabane based camp, as they set up a semi-final berth against defending champions, Chiefs, a repeat of the previous year final. It was yet another clash where it looked to be a
The final was also another high mountain to climb. Santos had to face BDF XI, the team that had more experienced players in the Premier League. Most of the players also had international exposure and on paper, BDF XI were firm favourites.
Matebele in their ranks had Zebras' key players including Masego Ntshingane, Nelson 'Viola' Gabolwelwe, Ernest Amos, Captain Mompati 'Apache' Thuma. The team was under the tutelage of veteran tactician, Stanley Mwaanga and had humiliated minnows Naughty Boys 4-1 in the semi-finals.
Once again, the odds were against Hunda and his pack of young hungry wolves. The tactician pinned hope on teenagers like right back, Thato 'Yellow' Bolweleng, enterprising midfielder Bakang 'Dolezar' Moeng and attacking sensation, Mogakolodi 'Tsotso' Ngele. Amongst them were also Tsotso' elder brother, Godfrey as well as Boitshoko Zikhale who had at the time received their first Zebras call-ups for their impressive run of form.
The final was a clash between a tactical approach and a fluid attacking young side. Santos played beautiful football and won many local fans' hearts. Matebele and Ma-14 met in a near capacity and electrifying atmosphere at UB Stadium.
Santos once again showed 'Goliath' no respect and at end of a regulation time the teams were locked at 1-1. Santos won their post match penalty shootouts 4-2 to win a major cup two seasons after gaining promotion. It was also Hunda's first trophy after a 15-year stay in Botswana.
The team's development systems proved to have paid dividends as Rollers signed Ngele and Bolweleng while Moeng joined Gaborone United. Zikhale also left to join another local football giant, Extension Gunners.