After three seasons in the First Division, Tafic mark their long awaited return to the BTC Premier League on Saturday.

In a true baptism of fire, last season’s Debswana First Division North Champions will take on the biggest club in the land, Township Rollers.

To add to the intrigue surrounding the fixture, the last time the two sides met was in 2014, when a 3-1 Rollers victory confirmed Tafic’s relegation from the premiership.

The Francistown giants faded away dismally that season, losing their last six games as they meekly succumbed to the drop, exiting the elite league with barely a whimper.

Three years later and the Reds are finally back and desperate to make amends for past disappointments.

Roared on by their ardent home support, the Matjimenyenga boys will be banking on their Ghetto form to keep them up.

However, in defending champions Rollers, whose 2016/17 triumph was the club’s 14th league title and second in a row, Tafic are up against a formidable foe.

Undefeated in the league this year, Popa lost just two times last season and are currently on a 22 game unbeaten premiership run – an astonishing sequence of results that includes 16 wins and stretches back to the 26th of November 2016 when they lost 3-2 to Mochudi Centre Chiefs .

Such was Mapalastina’s dominance that they finished eight points ahead of second-placed Jwaneng Galaxy and 15 points above Orapa United in third.

Under the guidance of new head coach Nikola Kavazovic, Rollers will be confident of completing a hatrick of successive championships.

Talking to Voice Sport this week, the well-travelled 42-year-old Serbian, whose previous engagements include a stint as the Sri Lankan national team’s coach, described Saturday’s encounter as a trip into the unknown.

Following a successful pre-season, Kavazovic stressed that the Tafic match would be his first real test.

“We played about 13 games including against the national team. The boys did very well as we won all the games with big margin except Black Forest game which we drew,” he said, adding that he was impressed with his players’ response to his tactics and instructions.

According to Kavazovic, who has coached in six different countries before his Rollers posting, this came as no surprise to him as he believes Africans are the most naturally talented footballers in the world.

Return of the reds
A NEW DAWN: Rollers Head Coach, Nikola Kavazovic

Turning his attention to this weekend’s opponents, Kavazovic, in his stuttering English, said, “Tafic is new in the league. None of the technical team member knows their style of play but that does not bother me because there is no easy game in premier league. We are going there to play our game and apply the tactics players learnt during preparations.”

To add to the magnitude of Tafic’s task, they will play the game without their head coach Maxwell Moyo, as the Zimbabwean is yet to secure his work permit.

Instead, they will be under the capable tutelage of assistant coach Elias Chinyemba, who said that playing against the defending champions was a motivation of its own.

“Rollers are in for a surprise and they should not expect an easy game against us. We trained thoroughly and every player was involved. Our three foreign players will miss the game due to work permit issues but we have a pool of talented local players who are capable of getting the maximum points.

“This is a must win game as it will boost our morale going forward. We are underdogs working under minimal resources but players are committed to go all out to prove themselves,” concluded Chinyemba.

Scheduled to kick-off at 3pm at the Francistown Sports Complex on Saturday, regardless of the result one thing is for certain – the drought is over; topflight football is finally back!

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