An excited Boitumelo Mafoko announced his early retirement a fortnight ago at Francistown but while it may have come as a shock to many; perhaps even to himself as he may not have planned to spill the beans yet, he could have not chosen a better time to bid farewell to football following his two decades of chasing the pig skin, writes KETUMILE RAMATITI
The experienced defender Mafoko, amid excitement and euphoria of having won a second Mascom Top 8 medal let the cat out of bag that he would not return to the field next season.
His town’s mayor, the team chairman and his lieutenants were all in attendance and celebrating the emphatic 4-3 win against arch rivals Orapa United. It was at the height of this ecstasy, which he contributed to by netting the second goal while marshalling the defence with great dexterity against the ruthless Orapa attacking force that he chose to bid farewell to the sport.
The victory at Francistown where ‘Navara’ made his name while cutting his first teeth at Tasc, saw him being one of the rare players to have won the tournament twice. In fact in all the finals he played he was match day captain and to top that, he netted in both finals. Unfortunately, ‘Madala’ as his team mates call him, has managed only two medals in his 20 years playing football. His first ever mainstream medal was in 2014 with BDF XI before early this month with the new kid in the block, Galaxy. Before then he had notched gold at the Kabelano competition while with Township Rollers.
“It was one of the best games in my football life, and I should say that it is my last final of the tournament,” the virtually jubilant Galaxy captain revealed. “I don’t know how to describe the feeling but I’m so ecstatic and at the end of this season I will be hanging my football boots. I have done my part; I’m old and I should focus on my job, I’m a miner by the way. Maybe I will bounce back to football after a year,” the 36 year old revealed on the sidelines of the ‘diamond final’.
Part of the reasons why the former national team captain is ending his illustrious career despite underachievement in terms of winning medals, is to give youngsters a chance. “It is not like I can’t run or play, no, I can still run better than 50% of the players in the elite league.” He continued, “It is time to give others a chance, I have groomed a lot of players now they ought to take the baton. There a lot of players that I have groomed especially at national level, look at Mosha (Gaolaolwe) and company, it is time I hand over to them.”
The medal they notched on April Fool’s Day was the first for Galaxy, and seemingly, it was the one thing he had been waiting for before he could consider stepping back and allowing for other upcoming players to add on to the foundation he has laid. By his own admission, he has groomed a lot of players and in his absence; his legacy should continue to be seen in them. “My fondest memory will be with Galaxy, in my first season we finished in the top eight the second season we won the tournament,” he said.
Mafoko has had great impact in the upbringing of young players with all sides he has played for, including Tasc Rollers, Cape Town Santos, BDF XI. While he is certain that his mind is made and he will retire at the end of May, Mafoko has said he will still meet with his advisors where he might rethink the decision. “Personally I will be retiring but I will meet some other people and I might leave later maybe after 8 months.” Galaxy’s participation in the Confederations Africa Cup (CAF) is highly likely to influence his final decision.
National team coach Peter Butler will also have to scratch his head in order to identify a perfect replacement for the versatile former national team captain. He has been a pivotal cog marshalling the youngsters at the backline especially when Butler introduced the 3-5-2 format. Mafoko started his football at Moshopha Young Tigers before joining Tasc in 2000. Rollers then snatched him in 2005 and four years later he joined South African side Cape Town Santos. In 2012 after the AFCON finals he joined BDF XI before he found a home at Galaxy in 2014.
Kaizer Chiefs, one of South Africa’s biggest football clubs, has been facing a coaching crisis. In the midst of this turmoil, Thatayaone Ditlhokwe, a local hard-tackling defender, has quickly become an integral member of the squad. However, despite his impressive performances, Ditlhokwe must avoid complacency and continue to work hard to secure his place in the star-studded team. TSHEPO KEHIMILE explores the potential impact of Chiefs’ frequent changes in coaching staff on Ditlhokwe and emphasize the need for him to maintain his high level of performance.
Ditlhokwe’s Rise to Prominence:
Ditlhokwe’s journey in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) began when he joined Supersport United on a three-year deal from Township Rollers. His talent and dedication quickly caught the attention of the technical team, and he became a trusted member of the squad. In January 2023, he signed a five-year contract with Kaizer Chiefs, one of the biggest clubs in South African football. His performances during pre-season matches against Young African and Township Rollers showcased his potential and promised a bright future at Amakhosi.
The Acid Test:
As the season progressed, Ditlhokwe faced several challenges. His first test came against Chippa United, where he and his defensive partner, Given Msimango, managed to keep a clean sheet in a goalless draw. However, miscommunication between the defense and goalkeeper Riyaard Pieterse led to a 2-1 defeat against Mamelodi Sundowns. Despite this setback, Ditlhokwe and Msimango redeemed themselves in subsequent matches, guiding Chiefs to a 3-0 victory against TS Galaxy and a 2-0 win against Stellenbosch.
The Impact of Coaching Changes:
Chiefs’ frequent changes in coaching staff can potentially affect Ditlhokwe’s performance and place in the team. The departure of Coach Molefi Ntseki, who had shown faith in Ditlhokwe, raised questions about whether the new coach would retain him as a regular starter. The arrival of Cavin Johnson as the interim coach saw Ditlhokwe maintain his place in the starting lineup, but the team continued to struggle defensively, conceding goals in matches against Golden Arrows and Cape Town City.
The Need for Consistency:
Ditlhokwe’s consistent presence in the starting lineup is commendable, but he must not become complacent. As competition for accolades and starting positions intensifies, he needs to work even harder to improve the team’s defensive record. Chiefs’ recent signing of his former Supersport United teammate adds further competition for the starting berth, making it crucial for Ditlhokwe to maintain his high level of performance.
Thatayaone Ditlhokwe’s journey at Kaizer Chiefs has been impressive, with his consistent performances earning him a regular place in the starting lineup. However, he must avoid complacency and continue to work hard to improve the team’s defensive record. The frequent changes in coaching staff at Chiefs add an element of uncertainty, making it essential for Ditlhokwe to prove himself to each new coach. By remaining focused and dedicated, Ditlhokwe can solidify his position in the team and contribute to the success of Amakhosi.
The Botswana Boxing Association (BOBA) recently organized a successful Boxing National Championships, sponsored by Maun Quarries and Tau Grading, with a generous amount of P100,000. This financial support is a welcome development for the boxing fraternity, as it has been almost a decade since such a windfall was received. The championships showcased the incredible skills of boxers like Mmusi Tswiigi, who achieved a remarkable victory by Referee Stop Contest (RSC). However, despite this success, BOBA acknowledges the need to improve and participate in international competitions to increase the chances of qualifying for the Paris Olympics.
National Championships Success:
The Boxing National Championships witnessed outstanding performances from various boxers. Mmusi Tswiigi’s victory by RSC highlighted his exceptional skills and determination. Other notable performers included Rajab Mahommed, Maxwell Sechi, Thabang Chakalisa, Kerapetse Segole, Joel Kgogobi, Botshelo Thomologo, Otsile Mogobye, Mompoloki Sebula, Kenaope Boifang, Solomon Motshwarakgole, Keamogetse Kenosi, and Tshephang Moilwa. These boxers demonstrated their talent and dedication, bringing pride to the nation.
The Road to the Olympics:
Despite the success at the National Championships, BOBA Secretary General, Taolo Tlouetsile, acknowledges that more needs to be done to secure a spot at the Paris Olympics. Tlouetsile emphasizes the importance of international exposure for local boxers to gauge their readiness for such competitions. He recognizes that the opponents in international competitions are more active and challenging, making it crucial for local boxers to participate in various international events.
The local pugilists faced difficulties during the Paris 2024 Boxing Africa Qualifiers held in Senegal. Most of the boxers were eliminated in the preliminary rounds, with only Keamogetse Kenosi making it to the quarterfinals. The lack of preparation due to financial constraints hindered their performance. The absence of training camps and exposure to international competitions affected their readiness and ability to compete at the highest level.
To secure a place at the Paris Olympics, local boxers must now focus on the upcoming qualification tournaments. The 1st World Qualification Tournament is scheduled to take place in Busto Arsizio, Italy, from 29 February to 12 March 2024, followed by the 2nd World Qualification Tournament in Bangkok, Thailand, from 23 May to 3 June 2024. These tournaments provide another opportunity for local boxers to showcase their skills and qualify for the Olympics.
The Way Forward:
BOBA National Team Coach, Thebe Setlalekgosi, acknowledges the talent of the boxers but highlights the financial constraints that have hindered their progress. Setlalekgosi emphasizes the need for proper training camps to prepare the team adequately. He expresses his disappointment at missing the International Boxing Association (IBA) Junior World Championships, which could have served as valuable preparation for future boxers. Setlalekgosi proposes a training camp from the first week of December until February to ensure the team is in top shape for the upcoming qualifiers.
The recent success of the Boxing National Championships sponsored by Maun Quarries and Tau Grading is a positive step for BOBA. However, the association recognizes the need for international exposure and participation to improve the chances of qualifying for the Paris Olympics. Financial constraints have been a significant challenge, affecting the preparation and performance of local boxers. With upcoming qualification tournaments, it is crucial for BOBA to prioritize training camps and international competitions to give their boxers the best chance at success. By addressing these challenges, BOBA can pave the way for a brighter future in boxing and bring glory to Botswana on the Olympic stage.
Crunch time has arrived for the Mares, the women’s senior national team of Botswana, as they face a crucial encounter against Kenya, also known as the Harambee Starlets.
This match will determine their qualification for the WAFCON 2024 tournament, and the fate of the Mares hangs in the balance. Under the guidance of their new coach, Alex Malete, the team carries a slight advantage with an away goal from the first leg.
Adding to their confidence, the Mares received a major boost with the inclusion of newly appointed Zebras head coach, Didier Gomes Da Rosa, in their technical team. Da Rosa’s appointment as the Director of Football for all national teams, including the women’s team, shows the commitment of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) to support the growth and development of women’s football in the country.
The history between these two teams is not extensive, with only two previous encounters. The last match took place in 2015 during the 2016 Olympic qualifiers. The Mares won the first leg 2-1 but lost the second leg 1-0, resulting in the Harambee Starlets advancing to the next round based on aggregate score.
Both teams have their sights set on making their second appearance in the WAFCON tournament. The Harambee Starlets made their debut in the 2016 edition held in Cameroon, and now they aim to secure their next appearance. Similarly, the Mares are eager to make their mark and showcase their progress since their last participation.
In the first leg of this crucial tie, the Mares faced early attacks from the home side but found their rhythm midway through the first half. Keitumetse Dithebe, an attacker from Gaborone United, broke the deadlock with a goal in the 37th minute. However, the Harambee Starlets quickly responded with a penalty kick just before halftime, leveling the score. The second half saw sustained attacks from the Kenyan side, but the Mares held firm at the back, ensuring the match ended in a stalemate.
The Mares can rely on the experience and skill of players like Refilwe Tholakele and Sedilame Bosija, who recently won the CAF Women’s Champions League with Mamelodi Sundowns. Tholakele, awarded the Golden Boot, played a pivotal role in her team’s historic triumph, scoring two goals in the final. Her success highlights the significance of her contribution to the Mares’ campaign.
As the Mares head into this crucial clash, they must draw on their collective strength and determination. The opportunity to qualify for WAFCON 2024 is within their grasp, and they must seize it. With the support of their coach, the inclusion of Da Rosa in the technical team, and the talent of their players, the Mares have the potential to rewrite their own history and make a lasting impact on women’s football in Botswana.