It sits calmly in the heart of Orapa, just a stone’s throw away from the bristle mining activity where the precious diamond is extracted.
The stadium does not have the glitter of a diamond, but holds an enduring statistic.
The home team, Orapa United, has found the stadium to be an impregnable fortress since their last defeat in August 2014. BMC were the 2-1 victors and still hold the record of being the only team to inflict a home Premiership defeat on Orapa United.
The last time the Ostriches tasted defeat at the Itekeng Stadium, Township Rollers were still defending champions. Mochudi Centre Chiefs had not wrapped their third league title while Gilport Lions was still known as BMC. Gift Mogapi was still a trusted businessman and called the shots at Notwane. Toronto were still in the Premiership and Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea had enough gravitas to scare any opponent at Stamford Bridge.
While there has been a seismic shift everywhere else, the 16 month Orapa United record has remained resolute and stood the test of time.
Giants of local football, Gaborone United, Mochudi Centre Chiefs, Township Rollers and Extension Gunners have pulled their crowds to the Itekeng cauldron and the best they could emerge with was the share of spoils.
Last week Thursday, Gunners made a brisk start to their Mascom Top 8 tie, threatening to tear the history book to shreds. After taking a first half lead, the evening crowd thought the worst was to come for the Ostriches, who however rallied back to snatch a 1-1 draw after an improved second half.
Tonight, Madinda Ndlovu’s charges welcome Green Lovers fully aware that if they avoid defeat, they will take their unbeaten run to an unprecedented 17 months, probably the longest for a Premiership team, outside Mochudi Centre Chiefs’ unbeaten run in 2007/2008.
The man who sparked the start of the lengthy run, Maxwell ‘Malume’ Moyo remembers the last time the Ostriches had their heads in a hole.
“That afternoon we missed a penalty through Emmanuel Nlu and the game finished 2-1,” he recalls. Had it not been for the penalty miss, Orapa United would have completed the season unbeaten at home.
Moyo, who has since moved to Police XI, says the spirit among players and fans in the mining town was behind the sparkling run.
“That’s a team from the mining town. The unity is amazing. We beat all big teams,” Moyo says.
In Orapa mythical theories abound. Some claim the toss is crucial.
“They say if the team attacks the mine end goal in the second half, they don’t lose,” a skeptical fan says.
But Moyo argues it’s only normal for people to come up with absurd explanations regarding such a good record.
“That’s normal. There are stories. But if I knew their story (behind the run) I would have beaten them. There is nothing,” Moyo observed after his new team, Police XI travelled to Orapa and returned empty handed following a 2-0 defeat recently. Moyo’s successor, Ndlovu says he is unconcerned about the records. In fact, he has created his own record as he is unbeaten, both home and away, since he started sitting on the Orapa bench.
“Ours is to play games. We just focus on playing. It’s about a solid team, and my objective is to build a competitive side,” he says.
Ndlovu says if there are any superstitions behind the unbeaten run, “it is not my issue.”
“We score wherever,” he says with regards to the toss.
Orapa have looked formidable again this season with proven players such as Patrick Lenyeletse, Mandla ‘Sukunyetsa’ Sibanda, Bonolo Fraizer and Ronald Chikomo and sit third on the log behind leaders, Rollers and army side, BDF XI.