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TKO finalists Baroka FC have come a long way

Matsimela Thoka Assistant coach after the Telkom Knockout, Semi Final match between Baroka FC and Bidvest Wits at Peter Mokaba Stadium on November 25, 2018 in Polokwane, South Africa.
Matsimela Thoka Assistant coach after the Telkom Knockout, Semi Final match between Baroka FC and Bidvest Wits at Peter Mokaba Stadium on November 25, 2018 in Polokwane, South Africa.
Image: Philip Maeta/Gallo Images

Things have not always been this good at Baroka FC.

In the eleven years of Baroka's existence‚ the village club from Ga-Mphahlele in Limpopo went through an emotional roller-coaster of emotions as they negotiated through two promotions from the third tier until they arrived in the Promised Land of the Absa premiership.

During their time in the lower divisions‚ with limited resources and little hope of ever hitting the big time‚ they went through the disappointment of two failed promotion bids in the Vodacom League and the National First Division (NFD) but they were not deterred.

They also survived the relegation and promotion play-offs after they finished second from the bottom in their first season in the topflight.

All these challenges are seemingly behind them and their immediate focus is now on the Telkom Knockout final against overwhelming favourites Orlando Pirates at the Nelson Mandela Stadium on Saturday.

According to longest serving team member and assistant coach Matsimela Thoka‚ featuring in the final against the Buccaneers is a clear indication of how far they have come from the dusty streets of Seleteng at Ga-Mphahlele.

Thoka joined the club a year after it was founded by Khurishi Mphahlele in 2008 where he worked in various capacities and under coaches like Mike Rapatsa‚ Sello Chokoe and Kgoloko Thobejane.

“This club has come a long way since those days in the lower divisions and reaching our first final is huge news for the province‚” he said on Thursday during their training session at Ngwana-Mohube Senior Secondary School.

“As a PSL club there is always a lot of focus on us as a team but we have not forgotten where we come from.

"This journey has been long and frustrating at times but with the support of our chairman Mr Mphahlele‚ we survived to reach this point.”

Thoka‚ who is the first assistant to head coach Wedson Nyirenda and holds a Safa B coaching licence‚ admitted that they would have never dreamed of featuring in a topflight cup final a few years ago.

“There are many clubs who have been playing in this league for a number of years but they have never qualified for a cup final‚" he said.

"Qualifying to play in this final must not make us big-headed because we have not won anything. But it is an achievement that we are proud of.

"We are preparing well so that we have a good chance to win the match.

"If we manage to win‚ it would be good for the people of Ga-Mphahlele who have given us unconditional support from the beginning.

"The players have been working hard and our chairman never lost hope.”

Though they are still relatively new in the PSL‚ Baroka have already played in two semifinals but lost both to Black Leopards and SuperSport United in the Nedbank Cup.

But Thoka is hoping for third time lucky against Pirates.

“One of the things that we are imparting on the players during preparations is to remind them that we have not won anything‚" he said.

"I still remember those losses to Leopards and SuperSport‚ the most important thing for us is to be properly prepared.”

Thoka‚ who was the head coach of their MDC team for the past two seaosns‚ said he survived for ten years because he is passionate about the club and what he does.

“It is important to love and have passion for what you do and my other attribute is that I am loyal. If I was not passionate and loyal‚ I could have quit while things were not these promising‚”

If they get it right on Saturday against the wily Milutin Sredojević‚ Thoka will look back at those difficult early days where sometimes they did not have enough paint to mark the line at the training ground.

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