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The poignant contrasting story of another Moloi

Talented Dirang ‘Malam’ Moloi

Pontsho Moloi made his last appearance in a poignant send-off that will probably contrast that of younger but more talented brother Dirang ‘Malam’ Moloi. Regarded as the best of the three brothers, Dirang failed to turn the corner when the world was at his feet.

In football, sometimes things do work out the way they should. Some players, the world over are identified from any early age with clear prospects of success. Some despite those early promises end up not living up to the expectation. Dirang Moloi is one such player.

While Piro is celebrated, Dirang is mourned, not because he had bad luck in his career, but because he denied football fanatics the true perfection of football that he had in him.

At 30, his career is almost over and we know what Dirang can do in the field, but we never got to see it, at least consistently.

There are very few people who have seen his real talent; those who have indeed had a rarefied privilege.  He could have possibly become the country’s golden boy of football, but he chose to ignore that calling. He is much like the bride that kept everyone waiting-and in this case, we are the groom.

Dirang’s talent is admirable; he could easily pass as enough reason for anyone to attend a football match, even if your team is not playing or whether he is playing for the team rivalling yours.

The crafty midfield maestro, born four years after his brother Piro is touted as arguably the most gifted player to come from Botswana. History will point out at players like Mmoloki ‘BB’ Sechele and Scara Kebalepile among the greatest talent wise, Moloi will easily appear along the list.

Unlike Scara and Besto who happen to have played when prospects of playing abroad were limited, Dirang was born at the most opportune time for success. By the time he was drafted into the national team as a 20 year old in 2006, his compatriots, Dipsy Selolwane and Mogogi Gabonamong − two of Botswana’s most successful legends, were plying their trade in the lucrative Premier Soccer League of the neighbouring South Africa.

In his element, on his day, whatever he touched turned into gold, commanding and orchestrating proceedings in the middle of the park as he pleased. He had a cunning knack of splitting even the hardest defence in the world.

Many agreed that, technically, Dirang was worlds apart from the rest of his peers. He seemed to have been using an undisclosed manual from the rest of his teammates. Lofty and languid in nature, his greatest trait was ability to use the ball efficiently.

Not much of an athlete, but his ability to move the ball around the pitch with elegance and astuteness made him a rare breed. He simply had the art of passing.

At international level, Moloi’s playing style could be compared to that of German international Mesuit Ozil or former Argentina playmaker Juan Riquelme. The two are commonly known for playing football at their own pace.  

Most of the time, Dirang would dictate the tempos of the match, selfishly adjusting it to his needs. He would raise it when necessary and lower it if he pleased. None in his generation could rival his ability.

But what went wrong? Surely, his surly demeanour at an early age played some role. Dirang also cared less about football, unlike Piro, who had followed football almost his entire life, for Malam, it was the opposite; football had to follow him around in order for him to come to the party. As per his admission, he has never fallen in love with the beautiful game. Football just happened to be a sport he plays merely because he can.

Farmed and natured at former premier league giants, Toronto Boys under the tutelage of among others Lawrence Phiri and Paul Moyo, Dirang thrust himself into fame during the 2006 Coca Cola Cup tournament, which he singlehandedly led the team to the final, defeating BDF XI 2-1 − scoring the winning goal in the process.

This particular tournament was important in the sense that it came in the wake of his elder brother, Piro’s controversial move to the resurgent, Mochudi Centre Chiefs. Piro had been Notwane’s talisman and his departure created a lot of uncertainty at Notwane, but it proved to have been a blessing in disguise for Sechaba faithfuls.

Dirang was transformed in the process, his churlish attitudes toward referees improved and he had to take some leadership sort of role in the team. Alongside Piro the two became infamous for red cards in a series of games, taxing the team dearly in the process.  

Dirang became an integral of part of probably the most gifted national youth team to have been ever been assembled. Dubbed the ‘Dream Team’, the team comprised among others Jomo Moatlhaping, Jerome Ramatlhakwana, Noah Maposa, Amos Godirwang, Mosimanegape Ramoshibidu to name but a few. The team was under the tactical guidance of Major David Bright.

In 2006, Moloi joined Cyprus based team, alongside Joel Mogorosi, but their stay there was short-lived. He returned to Notwane in the pre-season of 2007 to help the team win Kabelano Charity Cup, again being mainstay in the success of the team.

Ever since his debut in 2006, under the Briton mentor Colwyn Rowe, Moloi featured regularly for the Zebras. Rowe was a big fan of Dirang, giving him platform to express himself in front of innumerable Zebras supporters.

Perhaps, his mantle was tested in first game; Rowe threw him deep into the end against defending champions Egypt at a jam-packed National Stadium in the spring of 2006.

The biggest task on the day was having to play against the skilful and experienced midfield duo of Mohammed Abouterika and Captain Ahmed Hassan.

Saddled by the absence of Selolwane and Gabonamong, the Zebras fans had their prayers answers when Dirang emerged hero of the day. In the stands, many who were not familiar with the Notwane lad started asking who the boy in jersey 7 was. At only 20 years of age, he managed to be the most settled in the pitch on the day.

Dirang put up his best performance, enthralling Abouterika and Hassan. While the expectation was that the Pharaos would easily brush the Zebras aside, it was Rowe’s boys who proved to be a nuisance.  The Egypt midfield had a torrid time of having to answer to Dirang’s demands on that day.

In 2009, after a contractual dispute with Notwane, Dirang joined Chiefs to team up with his brother. The team lost the league to Gaborone United on the last day of the season but it was at Chiefs that he continued enjoying football.

This was followed by a spell at Vasco Da Gama in South Africa in 2010 and another move to Don Bosco in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) followed in 2013. Dirang returned to Botswana at the beginning of 2015 to join high spending Township Rollers, but his season was disastrous.

At the beginning of 2015/16 season, he re-joined Chiefs were he featured sparsely and spent the better part of the season on the sidelines amid reports of a fall out with Chiefs management.

At national team level, since Rowe’s departure Moloi has rarely featured regularly for Zebras. He was part of the team that qualified for the inaugural AFCON 2012, having appeared in most games as a substitute. Coach Stan Tshosane’s defensive approach meant that he preferred a midfield with two defensive midfielders, therefore sidelining Dirang.

Another season has come and gone, and it remains to be seen if he will rise to the occasion. In November, Dirang will be 31, and frankly at that age, people stop expecting much from sports people, especially in football.  Dirang has done a great disservice to himself football and in the robbed the country many chances to witness his skill.

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Sport

GU wins title after 13 years

23rd May 2022
GU

Gaborone United was this week crowned 2021/2022 Botswana Premier League (BPL) champions following their 1-0 win over the holders, Jwaneng Galaxy. Thero Setsile’s 13th minute’s goal was enough to seal the league championship, ending 13 years of drought from the Old Naledi outfit.

With two games to go before the top-flight season wraps up, Gaborone United opened a seven points gap to second placed Township Rollers having accumulated 63 points from twenty eight games. The Money machine were the first team to open a new chapter in the history books of Botswana football, when they were crowned the inaugural 2008/09 be Mobile Premiership champions, that came up with P1 million as prize money. Thereafter the club has been on the league drought as it could only manage winning Coca Cola FA Cup in 2012, Mascom top 8 twice in 2013 and 2015. They also won the Orange FA cup last season.

The return of Zackhem as the club financier signaled a new era with a number of galactic signings for the 2021/2022 season. The team brought into their fold big names in local football; Kekaetswe Moloi, Lesego Galenamotlhale and Joel Mogorosi. The arrival of enterprising left wing back Mothusi Johnson, dribbling wizard Mpho Kgaswane and hard tackling midfielder, Lebogang Ditsele made the job easier for the coaches.

Attacker Onkabetse Makgantai also joined the marauding attackers in Thatayaone Kgamanyane and Thero Setsile to make their front line combination the deadliest in the league. Both Kgamanyane and Setsile have netted 34 goals this season with the goal minder Goitseone Phoko keeping 20 clean sheets thus far while conceding just 10 goals. GU is still on the Orange FA Cup race and football commentators believe that they are the favorites looking at the quality of their squad.

As it stands should the Money Machine win all their remaining games, they stand a chance to equal the highest championship winning points record of 76 points which set by Mochudi Center chiefs during the 2007-2008 football season. That record stood for 14 years and Gaborone United could equal that feat should they win their remaining games against Sua Flamingos and struggling Notwane. The Money Machine made the bold statement begging of the 2021/2020 football season when they won 11 games straight games without even conceding a goal.

The Reds, who are under the guidance of Innocent Morapedi, a seasoned coach and his assistant Pontsho Moloi, has been consistent in the title race. In the process, the Old Naledi side has scored 59 goals while conceding the least goals (10 goals) and has a superior goal difference of 49 goals. Gaborone United success breaks Township Rollers and Mochudi Center Chiefs dominance as the only teams to have won the league title more than any other club in the last 13 seasons. GU’s proximity to money and talent were key this season.

Domestically since GU last won the league title, Mochudi Center Chiefs have won it three times; whilst the most decorated football club with 16 titles, Rollers has been dominating the league, winning five titles on the spin in five seasons from 2013-14 to 2018-19.  Last season, Jwaneng Galaxy was crowned champions for the very first time due to being at the top of the table when the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the season to be prematurely halted with ten games to play.

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Sport

Softball returns to play

23rd May 2022
Softball

After two years of no action across various sports codes including softball, Botswana Softball Association (BSA) is going back to the grounds to resuscitate the sport.

This weekend all roads lead to Selibe Phikwe for the top eight ladies championship. The eight ladies teams comprise the top four ladies teams from the south and north regions. They will then come together and form eight teams and battle it out this weekend at the Phikwe Softball Grounds and Area 2 Mowana Ball Park. The competing ladies teams are Titans, Police, Vikings, UB Giants, Rail giants, Scramblers, Carats and Ghetto Yankees. The champions will be crowned thereafter.

Softball Association Public relations officer, Boingotlo Marope explained that this tournament is not only for ladies, she said men’s championship will be held at Gaborone on the 28th May 2022.  She said they have noticed that everything is confined to Gaborone as their headquarters in the southern region. As a result they have decided to take other activities to the northern region as well. “We are trying to grow softball, we don’t want everything to surround Gaborone only which is why the ladies tournament will be held at Selebi Phikwe in the northern region to bring equality.”

However, she explained that the reason they were missing in action is because of Covid 19. “We saw government cautionary trying to protect everyone by putting certain restrictions as spots had to stop for 12 months, we welcomed 12 months to protect Batswana. As a results that lead to the closure as there were no games”.

In addition Marope said they currently don’t have sponsors however private sector has always come through. Bofinet has to cut the sponsorship but that is not due to Covid 19 crisis. “Bofinet has showed commitment, they promised that as soon as they are settled they will come to our door knocking again,” she added.

Marope further said as a results they rely on their tight budget. Few of players has been sponsored, some has to dig from their own pockets, some parents cannot sent their children as some had to quit. “We have worked with our tight budget to assist teams and hoping that in the coming season we can have somebody to assist”.

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Sport

Botswana ranked 4th in Zone 4 boxing tourney

4th May 2022
Boxing

The Botswana national boxing team recently returned from the zone 4 championship held in Mozambique. The team was led by head coach Thebe Setlalekgosi, two assistant coaches, Gibson Rauwe and Pearl Mooketsi. Two referees and judges, Gaseitsewe Ponatshego and Linda Mooketsi.

In the women’s category, Lethabo Modukanele was representing Botswana in the 48 kg division, while Phekie Bele and Sadie Kenosi were competing in the 57 kg and 60 kg categories, respectively. In the men’s category, Kobamelo Molatlhegi was representing the country in the 52 kg division, while Rajab Mahomed was competing in the under 51 kg category.George Molwantwa was competing for under 57 kg category and Treasure Moremi was competing for under 60kg category.

The boxers came home with seven medals, Modukanele came home with a gold medal, Kenosi, Rajab, Molatlhegi all came home with silver medals. While Moremi, Molwantwa and Phekie Bele all came home with bronze medals.

According to Moitshepi Nkabiti, the public relations officer of the Botswana Boxing Association, the team performed well and that they were hoping that Rajab would also bring home a gold medal. However, due to an eye injury, he could not participate in the finals.

He stated that, “though some people might think that how our team performed is not an achievement it is a big achievement to us. Other countries came with 19 boxers while we only came with our seven boxers, and they all came back with medals. That is something that we have to be proud of I really commend them for their performance. Having 5 players making it to the finals is really a blessing and we should not take it for granted.”

According to Nkabiti, Botswana was ranked fourth in the zone 4 championship, which was held in Mozambique. Other countries that participated in the tournament included South Africa, Zambia, Eswatini, and Seychelles. They all had a total of 19 boxers. Lesotho also had eight boxers.

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