By Bakang Mhaladi
Gaborone - Botswana soccer fans were treated to a high-scoring opening weekend of the BTC Premiership season, with 23 goals scored in seven matches.
It was an exciting start to a season that had almost failed to take off after the referees threatened to boycott matches over last season's unpaid allowances. The Botswana Football Association (BFA)'s last-minute intervention meant the referees took to the field to avert an early embarrassment for local football.
The new season kicked off on Saturday, with the Mochudi Centre Chiefs against Extension Gunners fixture being the main attraction.
The match lived up to expectations as the two fading giants exchanged fiery fire, but could not be separated at the end of a pulsating 90minutes. The match produced six goals, as spoils were shared in a 3-3 stalemate.
Both sides missed out on finishing inside the top eight last season, and thus failed to make the cut for the lucrative Mascom Top 8 tournament.
While the two sides could not be separated, last season's runners-up, Jwaneng Galaxy wasted no time in making an unambiguous statement with a 5-0 shellacking of newcomers, Prisons XI.
Galaxy have strengthened significantly and will look to push perennial favorites, Township Rollers, who were away on CAF Champions League duty in Kampala, for the title. Bongani Mafu's Orapa United were held to a 1-1 draw by army side BDF XI, while returning Notwane won 2-1 over Security Systems in a well-attended match.
There was no respite for BR Highlanders, who are making their return to the top flight, as they fell 1-0 to Police XI. Highlanders have failed to stay beyond one season in the Premiership and are already early favorites for the drop.
There was also no reprieve for financially troubled Gaborone United, who were beaten 3-1 by Sharps Shooting Stars, just a week after the Gaborone giants lifted the pre-season Charity Cup.
Meanwhile, Township Rollers' CAF Champions League's dream quietly folded in Uganda as they fell 1-0 to Kampala City Council Authority.
The defeat ends Rollers' chances of reaching the quarterfinals, as they are now bottom of Group A with just three points from five games, with one round of play remaining.
Popa, making their first ever Champions League group stages appearances, will conclude their disappointing but enlightening campaign with a dead rubber against already qualified Tunisian giants, Esperance, in Gaborone on August 28.