A song for one of the most successful captains in the country
It is the afternoon of one of the weekends of November and Week 11 of 2006/07 Mascom Premier League is in full swing. In the 83rd minute of this classic fixture between Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers, Chiefs winger Pontsho Moloi performs wizardry that would determine the result of the game and embody the spirit of the revolutionary Kgatleng side and would transform local football.
‘Piro’ received a pass from Elijah Montsho on the right flank, drove towards Rollers left back Lolo Mosojane. The veteran Rollers defender was left on the ground while Moloi now faced central defender Barry Hangunyu who is also left eating grass while the winger put the ball past hapless Rollers goalkeeper Lesego Moeng. Chiefs go on to win the game by 2-1.
Since that encounter a lot was said of Moloi. Magosi supporters composed a song; Kgalema Lenyatso Piro, the chanting of the song was memorable and this was because in a way, Moloi had ended Rollers’s reign. He had helped Magosi bring down long time rivals in the game. Piro, like other football greats such as David Beckham, in a similar manner displayed a wizardry trademark which football lovers would tag the ‘PM turn’. It was at this moment that the black and white side resurged, with Moloi as the conductor.
Through his incredible footwork and thinking, Moloi was a modern winger who could attack with venom slicing defenders, scoring goals and creating assists causing his teammates to bring out their best for the team. “He was one of the skillful wingers that would keep you in your toes for the entire game and if you were to face him you had to be ready both physically and mentally,” ex Rollers and national team defender Seabo “Seabee” Gabanakgosi said.
Pontsho “Piro, Master-Twitter” Moloi was born on the 28th of November 1981 in Gaborone at the notorious location of extension 27. He started his football at a development team called Masa-Masa at Primary level. He then left to Young Strikers in the Junior category where he won the Chappies little league, before joining Notwane in 1999 where he was promoted to the senior team two years later at the age of 19. In 2006, after seven years with the player, Notwane lost one of their prized assets to Chiefs, and the disbelief was that he was signed for free; this move became a talk of the town for the better part of the transfer window more so it was the biggest move in the local football scene by then.
“That was so emotional because that’s where I cut my first teeth and it (Notwane) exposed me to a lot of things,” Moloi said, “but I had to move on and look for better pastures and Chiefs offered me that.”
In 2010 Moloi was signed by South African side Bay United for a season, and again before leaving Notwane he enjoyed some short stint at Cyprus. In his illustrious football career, Moloi featured in all the national development sides and also became part of the historic 2012 AFCON qualifying squad.
When he left Notwane, part of the debate was his attitude towards the game. Piro was accused of indiscipline in the field of play but ever since joining Chiefs he has been a different player.
“I was still a youngster by then, but as you grow you notice that at some point you were wrong,” PM 7, as the player was fondly called said.
One of the games that would always remain in many people’s memory was the 2005/06 season encounter between Notwane and Naughty Boys, when Piro received marching orders after he overreacted following his younger brother Dirang being given a red-card. However at Chiefs he found the likes of the then captain Noah “Stooge” Kareng who molded him.
Nowadays Pontsho is a true role model.
“I have always looked up to him and I am so excited to be with him on the same team, he is always there to give me some advices,” Chiefs wonder-kid, Ayanda Molefe could say about the legendary captain.
Chiefs under the armband of Moloi bagged five league titles and one FA cup honours which had previously eluded the club.
“His contribution was immeasurable, he helped us win the league and FA cup, you must remember that these trophies have eluded us but in the presence of him we defied the odds,” chiefs spokesperson Clifford Mogomotsi told Weekendsport.
Piro’s first achievement was winning the golden boot in his maiden season after scoring 22 goals before helping Magosi win their first ever league honour in 2007/08 in undefeated fashion, again in the same season, he helped the team win the FA cup. The following season they finished second best after GU narrowly beat them to win the trophy in photo-finish style.
Other titles were in 2011/12, 2012/13, 2014/15 and the just ended 2015/16 season.
“Piro is one of the boys that grew before me and we went through a lot. I remember one day I substituted him in less than 10 minutes in Lobatse, he cried such that after the game he told his mother how I didn’t treat him well but I explained to the mother that I wanted the best out of the boy, so when I look back and see where we are now and look at his achievements as well, I can only smile,” former Notwane captain Fabian Zulu remembered.
Moloi has been a true legend for football not only for Chiefs. “It has been a long journey and with the support from the Chiefs family I have been able to reach my destiny,” Moloi said after the game against Galaxy with the famous Kgalema Lenyatso Piro hit on the background.
“We will meet as the board and see how best to assist him either as team manager or one of the administration portfolios,” Mogomotsi said.
Ever since joining the Kgatleng side, a decade ago Chiefs has been the most consistent team in the league and putting the then dominant Gaborone sides; Rollers and GU under pressure. The song Kgalema Lenyatso Piro will long live, he instilled discipline to both teams and ensured that Magosi got the respect only befitting kings.
With just three weeks left before the World Athletics Championships kicks off in London, the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) has set a modest target for its athletes, demanding a paltry two medals.
The members of the team that will be participating in the event are currently training. They are expected to leave on July 10. The Botswana team, which was composed of young athletes, was able to secure seven medals at the recently concluded Africa Senior Championships held in Mauritius. They were placed sixth out of 44 participating nations.
According to Oabona Theetso, the Vice President of the Botswana Athletics Association, the team’s goal is to secure two medals at the World Championships. On the other hand, the under-20 team’s goal is to bag at least four medals.
Nevertheless, Theetso said the team which is currently on training camp encompasses of Isaac Makwala, Nigel Amos, Anthony Pesela, Bayapo Ndori, Letsile Tebogo, Isaac Makwala, and Thalosang Tshireletso of High jump just to mention the few. Theetso noted that the training camp was not able to produce a female athlete due to the failure of the female athletes to secure a ticket to the event.
Theetso also noted that the BNOC gave the BAA about P500 000 to help fund the team’s preparations for the event. Besides the training camp, the organization additionally received the same funding for the Oregon World Champion team.
When asked about the presence of renowned athlete and 800m world record holder, Nijel Amos, at the training camp, Theetso revealed that he has never officially communicated his intention to become an independent athlete.
When further pressed about the outcome of the meeting between Amos and the Minister – Theetso said, “We are unaware that he ever meets with Rakgare. If they met without the presence of BAA official, it will be wrong and highly regrettable,” he said.
When contacted for a comment Tlhobo Tlhasana who is Public Relations Officer at Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture confirmed to this publication that Amos met with Minister Tumiso Rakgare a few weeks after the 2012 Olympic silver medalist made known his intention to go solo.
“The minister is at liberty to meet any sport personality from different codes in his capacity as the minister. He doesn’t need the permission from BAA or let alone BNSC to have a meeting with Amos,” he noted. Meanwhile in 2019, BAA sent a strong team of 13 athletes, with five focused on individual categories, while others were to form part of relay team.
During that time two out of five athletes who were to represent this country within individual events were relegated to spectators owing to injuries. But the injuries on the two athletes had left one question on the lips of many within the athletics fraternity.
The duo of Nigel Amos and Galefele Moroko, who were undoubtedly team Botswana poster kids, saw their dream of sailing through in the competitions halted as they were forced out of tournament owing to injuries. Botswana eventually came home empty handed after failing to secure podium finish.
Botswana Football League (BFL) Chairperson Nicholas Zackem who is also a Gaborone United financier and director says Township Rollers should instead of being a hard-nut be remorseful on the Onkarabile Ratanang marathon case.
In an interview with WeekendSport this week, Zackhem says he has always had a good relationship with his Township Rollers counterpart, Jagdish Shah. However things took a nasty turn early this year when it surfaced that their left back Onkarabile Ratanang was not registered accordingly.
Again, the Rollers home game against GU played in February which resulted in a near stampede left him agitated such that Rollers should learn a lesson. “So with all these I think they should be remorseful and stop being militant,” he said.
His contention is, “this is recurring and with only one team – Rollers. Remember what happened in 2014 when BDF X1 was leading the log and they were docked points which in turn allowed Rollers to win.” In 2016 there was Ofentse Nato (Rollers player) saga where he was also not duly registered and now we are here again with Ratanang. This should be corrected to better our football.”
The Ratanang case has been dragging for months now and has created unnecessary chaos in local football. Of late the football league awards ceremony had to be postponed with those in the know saying it is because of the matter. A statement from BFL however says the postponement is a result of logistical challenges.
The BFL boss says he does not care what should happen to Rollers, which is arguably the most followed football team in the land. “Even if the relevant structure could fine the P100k or relegate or even be docked points I don’t care but I want them to respect football. My worry is they should be disciplined because they committed a heartfelt mistake.”
Some football commentators say there is high possibility of Rollers be axed from the elite league because they are facing a misconduct charge which means they can only plea for a lighter sentence like points docking.
When asked about reports of some players from other teams not registered accordingly just like Ratanang, Zackhem said it will be up to the relevant structures to decide because as far as he is concerned, the Rollers case is the only one that has been reported at Botswana Football Association (BFA).
ZAC ON BRIBING REFEREES
The 2021/22 football season was exciting but here and there it was blotted by allegations which were pointed at Zackhem himself as the league Chair of buying referees. He has vehemently dismissed those reports and rumours saying the current GU arsenal does not need any favors.
“We invested heavily on this team and if you have invested surely you are poised to win everything on offer. Look at the players that I have do you think I would need referees to win matches? Most of the players have also been called to the national team and that alone proves their mettle. I don’t remember the last time GU was awarded a penalty this season, it has been a team work and those referee talk is baseless.”
“I am a dreamer and perseverance is my name because after writing my Cambridge examinations a few years ago, I grouped young footballers in Francistown and started a youthful unregistered football team with them.
It was a difficult thing to do because the players were students and parents were not letting some of them to play football as they believed it might negatively affect their studies and some of the big clubs in the elite league will come and take my players.”
This is how Seemo ‘Sixteen’ Mpatane, a coach and founder of Eleven Angels football club which gained promotion to the elite league last weekend describe himself and the journey thus far. Barely two weeks ago, Mochudi Center chiefs failed to pluck Angels’ wings when they hosted them at Riverplate grounds during the first leg of the Botswana Football league promotional playoffs but this past Saturday Angels soared to a 5 – 0 win over them to reach the promised land.
The win meant Lekgamu la Bananyana (youthful side) as they affectionately known will now make a debut appearance at the apex of local league football. For a match characterized by a long stoppage time following clashes between Angels and Chiefs supporters, it was Angels who showed more battle to convincingly beat Chiefs and attain promotion.
Nevertheless, Mpatane said, “I continued to coach my team even when I was still studying at Botswana Accountancy College (BAC) in Francistown and it was a difficult journey because I had some school projects to do and I will divert my monthly allowance to some of my players; to feed them, provide transportation for them and also to buy them soccer boots,” he stated.
In 2013, he says, he decided to register the team officially with Botswana Football Association (BFA) in order to protect the players from other teams and to make income out of the team. He further said Lekgamu La Bananyana started in Third Division league when they got position one and gained automatic promotion to Second Division league although it was only their first season to play there.
“We struggled at Second Division because I had inexperienced youthful players and had limited resources like transportation, soccer boots and most of our players were sitting for their examinations, but we managed to avoid relegation as we finished in position four,” he alluded.
In 2017/18 season, he said the team won the Second Division League and qualified for the Debswana First Division North playoffs. During the playoffs, the team represented Francistown region, against other three teams from other regions, to be precise Chobe United, Maun Terrors and White Diamond from Boteti region.
In addition, the young tactician managed to produce quality players like Norman Mabaya who plays for Orapa united, Doctor David and Fortunate Thulare of Jwaneng Galaxy and Molaodi Tlhalefang of Security Systems who went and made their caps at the senior national team.
“I achieved one of my dreams; that is to take my team to the elite league and I’m left with one that is coaching at national level and I think after getting my license I will be ready to lead under 17, 20, 23 and even the national team cause it just requires humility, love, perseverance and commitment, but right I can offer my services cause football is in the heart,” he said.
Mpatane revealed his intention is to see more of his players participating at national level and overseas, as this week Zebras interim coach Mogomotsi Mpote called the 18-year-old Monty Enosa to be part of Zebras team which will compete for COSAFA tournament that is set to kick off next month.