Nico back in the Premier League against odds

Gazette Reporter

Five years after they bade the Premier League farewell, Selebi-Phikwe side, Nico United have bounced back to the elite league. Many thought Nico’s relegation had sounded the death knell as Selebi-Phikwe faced a bleak economic future which impacted the livelihood of the club.

But like a phoenix the First Division North side is back in big time football following a 0-0 draw against Maun Terrors on Saturday. Second placed Eleven Angels lost 1-0 Chadibe FC on the same day to hand Nico the passport to the Premier League with three games remaining. Majombolo’s promotion was never in doubt as the side led from the early stages of the season and stayed in command.

Nico was relegated in 2017 as the effects of BCL mine closure began to take its toll on the team. The copper and nickel mine, which closed in 2015, was the club’s lifeblood as the key sponsor. After the mine closed, Nico lost a considerable number of stars most who migrated south for greener pastures. In tatters, there was no hope for a Nico re-bound, as cross town rivals, Satmos also began their own plunge into the lower divisions. Against the tide, Nico has however, swum back to the Premier League and will be rubbing shoulders with the top sides in the land next season.

From 19 games, Nico have taken an unassailable 10-point lead over Angels, in one of the most one sided First Division North title contests in recent seasons. Nico chairperson, Busani Segweni is elated at his team’s achievement.

“The team bowed out from the Premier league when the mine closed and for the past five years it has been difficult to return the team back to the Premier league. A new committee was ushered last year in May and I was voted the chairman. With my vast experience in sports management and strong committee, we agreed to make it a point that the team returns where it belongs,” Segweni said.

“We made thorough preparation during pre season. We also managed to return all our last season’s squad and we beefed up as well. We secured good accommodation facilities which currently accommodate all our players from the BCL liquidator. This has helped us to take care and monitor our players,” he added. Segweni said now that promotion to the Premier League has been secured, they will up their efforts to find sponsors.

“Yes, it’s tough but we have scheduled meetings with business people in Phikwe to request them to come on board and help the team. We are very positive that a certain company will heed to our plea. Hopefully the mine will open soon and help us,” he said.
He indicated that they intend to retain the bulk of the youthful squad but will also make a few additions in order to compete in the Premier League.

Angels and third placed Santa Green are now primed to battle for the second position, which carries a Premier League promotion play-off reward. Only a point separates the two sides, with Angels ahead on 32.

Meanwhile, Holy Ghost’s pursuit for the Holy Grail in the First Division South hit a speed hump as they only recorded a draw against Matebele. The stalemate saw Holy Ghost’s lead at the top trimmed to five points with former Premier League side, Mochudi Centre Chiefs cranking up the pressure with a 3-0 shellacking of Mochudi Rovers in the Kgatleng derby on Saturday.

Three rounds of play remain in the First Division South, pointing to a thrilling finale with no clear cut favourites for the title. However, Chiefs could be smelling blood after breathing life to their campaign after a slow start to the season.

Another former Premier League side, Black Forest is losing steam at a critical junction of the campaign. They lost further ground on Chiefs and Holy Ghost after playing to a 1-1 draw against basement side, Motaung Young Strikers.

However, they still remain in contention for both automatic qualification and a play-off spot as they are a point behind Chiefs and six adrift of Holy Ghost.