by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – BAROKA FC’S campaign in the local Premiership is synonymous with the perpetual battle against relegation but the Limpopo-based side is reveling in the glory of being the perennial party poopers for sides gunning for the league title.
Promoted as champions from the national first division ahead of the 2016/17 topflight league, the side has gained a mysterious notoriety of a side that league title hopefuls hate to play against each time the league rounds come to a close.
The side from Ga-Mphahlele near Polokwane is a typical banana skin customer that while ever fighting for dear life to avoid relegation, can put up a good fight to stay up and decide the destiny of the league title.
AmaZulu are the latest title challenger to feel the pinch of the sucker punch of Baroka.
Before the two sides’ meeting on Tuesday, Usuthu were the DStv Premiership’s inform team, rising on a 16-match unbeaten wave.
Baroka pitched up at the revered Princess Magogo Stadium in AmaZulu’s Durban backyard and put up a spoilsport performance that all but ended the home side’s title aspirations.
The 1-0 win, courtesy of a first half strike by Malawian hotshot Richard Mbulu, has left log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns needing only two points from their remaining four games to seal a record, fourth successive league title.
It was his sixth goal of the season from the 27-year-old Mangochi-born man who is a decorated military officer in his home country.
Strike partner, Evidence Makgopa, who is Baroka’s notable performer in what is simmering as the side’s most accomplished season in the topflight, provided the assist.
Despite records indicating Baroka are spoilers, Makgopa shrugged off such a reputation about Bakgaga Baga Mphahlele.
“Hell no!” the Limpopo striker with seven goals and three assists this season responded in an interview with CAJ News Africa.
Makgopa insisted Baroka’s focus was on their highest finish ever in the elite league.
“We also want to be in the top eight. So, we didn’t disturb anyone (AmaZulu in title challenge),” he said.
It is not the first time Baroka have thrown spanners into the league race.
On the closing day of last season, they denied Kaizer Chiefs a first title since 2014-15, with a one-all draw handing Mamelodi Sundowns the title. Downs (59 points, finished two points over Chiefs).
It is worth mentioning Baroka had beaten Sundowns two games before the league came to a close, delaying their crowning.
In fact, Bakgaga first rose to prominence as an amateur outfit in 2011 by beating fading giants Chiefs and Moroka Swallows on their way to reaching the semi-final of the Nedbank Cup.
In 2018, they were underdogs against Orlando Pirates in the Telkom Knockout final but emerged 3-2 winners post-penalty shootout at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
That season, Baroka goalkeeper, Oscarine Masuluke, dented Pirates’ league challenge against Sundowns with a last minute bicycle-kick goal that is hailed as one of the most inspiring moments ever in the beautiful game.
Bakgaga are currently ninth in the 16 – team table on 32 points.
It is their highest placing at this time of the season.
Tricky games against relegation-haunted but Nedbank Cup winners, Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (home), Pirates (home) and Swallows (away) remain.
– CAJ News