Francistown — The First Division North kicks-off on Saturday and expectations are high from supporters who want nothing but the best performance from their teams.
Five teams from Francistown, otherwise known as Ghetto by its legion of fans, are represented in the division being Tafic, Eleven Angels, Great North Tigers, Calendar Stars and Francistown City Greens. Reporter, Lucky Doctor, went around the city to check on the progress made by the teams going into the 2018/19 season.
At Leseding grounds where Tafic holds their training sessions, head coach Elias Chinyemba, who was instrumental in the rise of Tafic to the 2016/17 BTC Premier League before their unceremonious relegation back to the lower division last season, said his team was ready for the season in the dusty grounds of first division football and opponents should expect a hungry team ready to return to top league football next season.
"The boys are fit and ready to bring good results. We have covered gym, fitness training and played numerous tournaments and I have been impressed by the commitment of the new players," he said.
Tafic has acquired the services of Boitshoko Zikhale and Kgomotso Samson from Calendar Stars and six other upcoming youngsters who are mostly under 20.
The club has also managed to retain the majority of their players from the top league last season.
Notably, for Matjimenyenga supporters as Tafic is affectionately known, five of their first games will be played at the old Francistown Stadium.
At Ukhamba grounds in Bluetown, Eleven Angels, rookies to the FDN, they are ready to hit the ground running when the league starts.
"We have 10 players who are under 20 and 20 that are senior players. We have signed five new players which includes Benson Banje who plays for the national U-20 team and Tlhompho Marman from Tafic among others. We have 30 players registered with us," revealed their youthful coach, Seemo '16' Mpatane.
He warned teams that have been in the division for long to not undermine them, stating that he was going to give them competition.
He also said they had played numerous friendlies during their pre-season training against teams such as Sua Flamingoes whom they drew 2-2, but ultimately beat on penalties.
Last season they finished on position 8 with 27 points on the log standings, but this year Calendar Stars are aiming much higher.
Their training at Calidra ground is led by co-coaches in Boipuso Manyalo and Vincent Chikumba, and they also have a professional physical trainer in Gibson Foster to enhance their physical fitness.
This will be their second season in the league after getting promotion during the 2016/17 season.
While Stars have lost a sizeable number of their players from last season, they have registered talented youngsters such as Lovemore Murirwa's brother, Stan Murirwa and Wazha Seleka, formerly of Extension Gunners amongst a host of others.
Like many other teams, they too have been busy getting ready for kick-off with eight friendly games played from numerous tournaments.
Despite survival from relegation to the second division last season, Francistown City Greens still harbours elite league ambitions and their assistant coach, Victor Puoeng stated in an interview that with the talent that his team possesses this season, promotion to the elite league is possible.
They finished last season pegged at position 10, and thanks to a win in a game against Mahalapye Hotspurs last year to determine who relegated and who survived, they survived and Hotspurs joined Maphatshwa to the second division.
"We have learnt a lot from last season and we have put that past behind us. Having relegated from the premier league almost four years ago, it is time we climb back and with our newly signed players we are ready for promotion.
It's about time. We are going to do a lot of hammering of teams this season. I hope they are ready," Puoeng boasted.
He encouraged team supporters to attend games in large numbers to give their players support.
As for Great North Tigers (GNT), the team management refused to comment on their team matters as they seemed to disagree on who really held fort on the team's public relations matter.
The PRO, who was suggested to this reporter by the club's secretary general, was shot down by the team chairman saying he was no longer part of GNT.
Source : BOPA