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HomeDStv PremiershipA Gallant But Heavy Week For Marumo

A Gallant But Heavy Week For Marumo

This article brought to you by DStv first appeared in Edition 105 of iDiski Times.

Marumo Gallants will be plying their trade in the Motsepe Foundation Championship next season after being relegated from the DStv Premiership on the final day of the 2022/2023 campaign.

It was a heartbreaking week for the club who had stunned on the continent as they reached the semi-finals of the CAF Confederation Cup. But that run finally came to an end last Wednesday, when Tanzania’s Young Africans beat them 2-1 in the second leg, to advance to the final 4-1 on aggregate.

No one had predicted Gallants’ continental heroics. It was a remarkable run for the South African minnows who, as a club, are only three years old.

But they would’ve been barely able to reflect on that run or mourn that disappointment of missing out on the final, when more tragedy inflicted the club, as they lost 2-0 to Swallows in their final league game, which meant they dropped to sixteenth and were automatically relegated. 

With Chippa United earning a point against Golden Arrows, Maritzburg United dropped into fifteenth place and will now have to survive the promotional play-offs against Cape Town Spurs and Casric Stars from the second tier.

The club spent two seasons in the top flight under the Gallants’ moniker. In their first campaign in 2020/2021, they were known as Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila, before owner Abram Sello bought the club mid-campaign. TTM, a club that had been playing in the second tier after buying Milano United’s status, had sold that franchise to Sekhukhune United and instead bought the top-flight status of Bidvest Wits.

Sello immediately announced his intention to rename the team, but it could only be done at the end of the season. 

Ironically, ‘Tshakhuma’ were also relegated this month. After selling to Sello, Lawrence Mulaudzi’s club re-emerged again in the Motsepe Foundation Championship last season, taking over Royal AM’s status (Royal AM had bought Bloemfontein Celtic’s Premiership franchise). But despite an attempted relocation to Bloemfontein earlier this year, Tshakhuma finished second last in the MFC and were relegated to amateur football alongside Black Leopards.

While waiting to rename the team in the off-season, Sello’s club won their first silverware just a few months after he bought them, as they lifted the 2020/2021 season’s Nedbank Cup. 

While they struggled in the league, it seemed cup football was Gallants’ pace and in 2021/2022 they repeated the feat of reaching the Nedbank Cup final, though this time they were beaten by Mamelodi Sundowns.

Those cup runs meant that Gallants also qualified for continental football for two consecutive seasons, and they did fairly well. In the last campaign, after a fairly good run, they lost to DRC giants TP Mazembe in the final preliminary round before the group stages, but this season they went all the way to the last four, surprising many clubs much bigger than them.

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But when it came to the Premiership, it was always a rough ride for Gallants. 

In 2020/2021, their first season, they finally ended 12th, finishing on 31 points, eight points ahead of relegated Leopards.

In 2021/2022, with the name change in place, they actually did a little better, finishing on 34 points, nine points ahead of relegated Baroka, and earned a respectable tenth-place finish.

But now, in 2022/2023, they didn’t reach the magical ’30 point’ mark and finished with just 29 points.

While the club only lasted three years, they certainly had their fair share of coaches during that time. Dylan Kerr, who was still waiting for a work permit, and never sat on the bench since joining at the end of January, had three spells with the team, while Dan Malesela had two. Lucky Nelukau was around when it was TTM, as was Joel Masutha, and so were David Mathebula and Mpho Maleka, albeit in caretaker roles. 

At the start of last season, Gallants looked to France and brought in Sebastien Migne, but he only lasted three months. In the off-season last year, they turned to a Frenchman again, but again it was just three months before Romain Folz was out.

In between Malesela and Kerr leading the team, assistant Raymond Mdaka sat in as coach, and he was also on the bench alone for almost all the CAF fixtures, with Malesela or Kerr in the stands.

This year we also saw Gallants move some of their games to Bloemfontein, while they also played some of their CAF fixtures at Dobsonville Stadium and at the Royal Bafokeng. It is unclear where Sello will base his second-tier franchise.

A player who almost certainly won’t be there next season, no matter where they are based, is their top scorer Ranga Chivaviro, who is reportedly about to make a move to a big African club. Apart from scoring seven goals in the CAFCC tournament, Chivaviro also scored 10 of the 27 goals they scored in the Premiership.

It has also been reported by this publication that Celimpilo Ngema has signed a pre-contract with AmaZulu.

But there is now likely to be a mass exodus of their other players at the end of June, with many contracts expiring, and it will be interesting to see how many remain with the club in the second tier next season.

And so the DStv Premiership bids farewell to Marumo Gallants, but for the supporters in Polokwane it is not a complete goodbye from the top flight after Polokwane City earned their promotion by winning the Championship.

Rob Delport
Rob Delport
Rob Delport is a walking football encyclopedia, having been a mainstay in the Cape Town football scene for years. Rob has previously worked for SABC and various websites and publications across Africa, as well as being the South African Head Researcher for Football Manager and doing a similar role occasionally for EA Sports FIFA. Highly respected, Rob is now a senior iDiski Times website and newspaper writer, and is also responsible for the newspaper's editorial.