FRANCISTOWN: When the beMOBILE Premier League season began, no one gave Orapa United a chance to be in a commanding position of the title race.
With 47 points in the league so far, the team is just three points from reaching its season’s target of 50.
In fact, Orapa United have already reached their target of finishing in the top eight without a hassle with seven games to go.
Their rise to stardom saw them claim the scalp of big giants such as Mochudi Centre Chiefs, BDF XI and Gaborone United (GU) among others.
Again, it has become a norm that teams from the north struggle every season, and naturally Orapa United was never given a chance.
Orapa’s form in their maiden season was also not convincing, with the club managing a 13th finish in the league despite starting on a high note.
This also led to many believing that the club would endure another struggle this season.
However, the Orapa chairman Thatayaone Sithole and those associated with the club say that a good performance was almost inevitable.
However, the question that is on everyone’s lips is what makes Orapa United tick this season, just three years after their formation? Mind you, this is their second season in the elite league.
“After the first season, we strengthened our management, the technical team and even brought in experienced players.
“We also realised that relying more on the team that won promotion from the First Division would not help our efforts to turn the team into a reputable brand,” Sithole explained.
For a team to thrive and stay on top, it also has to have strong finances and the chairman explained that they had to be innovative and come up with ways to generate income this season.
“We do not solely rely on the mine (Debswana) for funding like many believe. The mine funds us through the Marula Soccer Centre, which owns Orapa United.
“Marula owns a bar from which we now drive funds to run the team and augment what we get from the mine.”
He continues: “When I came in as chairman over a year ago, the bar was not that profitable, but we have since turned things around.
“We recently added a restaurant within the bar to raise funds for the team. These are among factors that make us tick because we now have money to run things properly.”
Through the restaurant, Sithole said they also tender to supply food during events in Orapa, which are backed by both Debswana and companies doing work at the mining town.
They have also hired a full time manager for the bar and the restaurant. He explained that the mine assists the team with transportation.
Although he declined to reveal the amount spent by the team on the players a month, a reputable insider said it was nearly P190,000 a month.
He also refused to dwell much on the club’s prospects of winning the league.
“Yes we are in a better position to win the league this season, but our target was the top eight and we have achieved that.
“Finishing anywhere in the top four will be a bonus. We will begin fighting for honours next season,” the chairman promised. The Ostriches’ coach, Maxwell Moyo mainly attributed hard work and team spirit to the team’s rise to the top.
“In the first round, we struggled to combine as we were gelling, but things got fine as the season progressed.
“I also have the likes of Patrick Lenyeletse, Wabo Mungabe, and Hendrick Moyo who I have worked with at ECCO and Extension Gunners respectively. “ When you have players you have worked with at your previous clubs, it helps because they understand your tactics and what you expect from them.
“They are able to help pass your tactics and what you expect the team to do to the other players, which makes your job easier as a coach.”
He added that Orapa United has an arsenal of experienced players, which is a plus because they require less teaching.
He further explained that the team management helped him bring in players like midfielder, Patrick Motsepe and marksman, Mandlaenkosi Sibanda in the second round to help fill positions that were thin on depth.
“This has also helped improve our prospects.” In fact, Sibanda has made an immediate impact at the club contributing six assists and scoring one goal in seven games since making a switch to the club in January from his native Zimbabwe.
“In short, we have balance in the team across all departments in the field.
This is also explained by the number of goals we have scored and conceded this season,” said Moyo, who took the now struggling ECCO City Greens to dizzy heights in the premier league when he was coach in middle to late 2000s.
The Ostriches have scored 36 goals conceding 20, which is the lowest tally in the league so far.
“The players are also well paid on time and when players are paid it is almost inevitable they will perform well.”
Tongue-in-cheek, Moyo also maintained his chairman’s stand that they will fight for the league and cup honours next season. “Winning the league this season will be a bonus for us,” he said. Orapa United captain, Patrick Lenyeletse credits the coach for the club’s good run.
“The coach is a good motivator. He is always positive. This is what I believe is among factors that has helped the team’s form this season. “The supporters in Boteti region have also been backing the team through out, which has improved the mood in the camp.” Lenyeletse, who is among the club’s top goal scorers with 11 goals, one behind another team’s goal poacher, Hendrick Moyo, also concurred that experienced players have been vital in Orapa’s successful campaign.