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Winning losers – All smiles as Richmond go down on their new home pitch

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Playing with the wind to their backs Richmond Ladies piled on the pressure scoring three goals in quick succession inside the first stanza of the game.

Richmond Ladies in action against Polokwane’s First Touch Academy at the new Merino Park multi sports complex in De Aar last Saturday. Picture: Supplied

RICHMOND Ladies FC’s celebration of the opening of their Merino Park multi-sports complex home ground in De Aar was soured by First Touch Academy FC of Polowane who on Saturday past wiped out a three-goal first half lead with a six-goal deluge on the day.

Richmond, probably juiced up by the new turf to host their local games, were first off the block. Playing with the wind to their backs the local ladies piled on the pressure scoring three goals in quick succession inside the first stanza of the game.

The First Touch team’s goal minder got so flustered that she needlessly fluffed saves she ordinarily would have handled competently. The Polokwane team bench too displayed signs of irritation by howling at the match referee for every real or imagined infringement on the pitch. But all that was in vain as the hosts Richmond United remained steadfast and piled three goals into their opponent’s posts.

However, the Polokwane side made a remarkable turnaround in the second stanza. They outplayed the hosts and scored at will from almost any quarter on the pitch. Soon they passed the equaliser mark but that proved too little and they kept the goals coming.

By the final whistle First Touch had stitched together six goals which made for wild celebrations with their bench afterwards.

But in many ways the match belonged to Richmond Ladies. The team playing in this fixture was a far cry from the team that could easily have passed for the laughing stock of the newly- inaugurated National Women’s League back in the 2018/19 season.

The Richmond Ladies team. Picture: Supplied

At that time the Richmond team played with a local mentor who had some understanding of the game but little to no professional training or a vision. It was extremely cringeworthy to see some of the players play the ball with knees or some odd part of the body. Or trying to kick with the foot they were standing on.

One part of this marked improvement in the team’s performance was brought on by the new mentor, former Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies coach Edwin “Motale” Lisene. The other was the involvement of a corporate sponsor with the team namely the solar and wind energy producer Longyuan Mulilo Wind projects.

Richmond Ladies executive chairman Amichand Amsterdam thanked the sponsor profusely in his post match remarks. The improvement theme was also picked up by First Touch Academy coach John Hlako who among others said: “Congratulations to Richmond. They have improved a lot. They have a good coach in Edwin. Yeah now they’re fine. I am happy for him. If a coach is good he is good (sic). A good coach you can take from here to anywhere and he will be fine. Others (teams) might not be so lucky against Richmond.”

Lisene himself expressed his satisfaction with the team and acknowledged their improved performance. “Yes, the Celtics experience rubbed off on me. I am happy that they scored three goals in the first half against a tough team like First touch. The whole team played very well. Things will come right. It was the first game ever for some of the players.

“Some have to learn to play against the wind. Other than that I am happy”.

Both Amsterdam and the sponsor’s socio-economic development director Fay Cassim did not disclose how deep their deal went except to say that they sorted out Richmond’s kit, transport and accommodation hassles including cover for a professional coach.