A historical group stage berth at the CAF champion’s league by a Botswana football team, Township Rollers has sadly come to an end after the local lads failed to redeem themselves in the tough Group A category after they only managed to secure four (4) points from a possible 18 points overall. Malapastina could have long seen their end when they were drawn against powerhouses and multiple CAF Champions league champions Al Ahly of Egypt and Esperance de Tunis of Tunisia respectively.
However, many soccer pundits had predicted that Rollers will at least salvage maximum points home and away against fellow newbie KCCA of Uganda but this was not to be as the Ugandan club also made sure they won home. Be that as it may, Rollers players are however happy with how they competed especially as first timers in the stage of the competition.
Rollers skipper Maano Ditshupo said their stay in the biggest club tournament in the continent was a learning curve as it gave them an opportunity to compete with the best in Africa. He said as a team they exit the tourney with a very high morale despite their poor showing.
“A lot of our fans will be furious about how we performed. Playing in the champion’s league is different from the league game. We were drawn against big clubs with vast experience of this stage. We played as underdogs and we were clever together with the technical team to always guard against our post to avoid further humiliation. Playing with such you can’t just attack them, if you do, do it at your own peril because they will come at you hard and score more goals.”
Also as a team we have learnt from this experience. Although it has always been difficult for southern African teams to repeat their fate in the champions league, next time we reach this stage we will be aware on how to approach our group matches,” said Ditshupo. Meanwhile, and contrary to the captain’s remarks, Rollers coach Nicola Karvasovic said should they play in the group stages again, he will not underestimate his boys’ prowess and he will make sure they equally attack their opponents.
Furthermore, he predicted that two of the advanced teams from his group will eventually be crowned the champions. “We played the big teams in the continent, no doubt about that; my players performed to their best abilities. If some of these teams come and enquire about a certain player, for the right bid we will let the payer go. We have learnt and better placed on how to approach the CAF competition.”
Meanwhile, Esperance’s coach Khalid Ben Yahia said he’s truly impressed by Rollers’ good hospitality despite their inexperience in the tournament stage. He said his team charted a flight to Gaborone to avoid fatigue as well as to give his players more confidence.
“We received very good hospitality and we were hosted like royalty and we are so happy about it, normally in Africa, teams give you a tough time to secure the needful for a football match. It’s always a game of pressure from supporters and the media.” Furthermore, the two African giants, Al Ahly and Esperance will advance to reach the quarterfinals.