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.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) is running without a substantive Technical Director since parting ways with South African native, Serame Letsoaka, who jumped ship midway through his contract in 2019.
This glaring revelation has left the Technical Department of the association hamstrung to fully operate by the book hence a plethora of problems protruding on the very nose of it.
This is the reason it took long for the association to take stern action against Zebras gaffer, Adel Amrouche. His departure was sanctioned at the eleventh hour when players’ patience had long wilted, threatening to leave the camp.
Pundits will therefore observe that it is the absence of a Technical Director that has caused all hell to break loose at Lekidi Football Centre.Since the departure of Letsoaka, the TD position has been more or less vacant as it has been manned by unqualified and somewhat incompetent administrators to date.
The TD position requires a CAF A-License qualification as well as a Diploma in Secondary Education as minimum qualifications. Among the specific duties of TD is; training and development of coaches, including design and updating of coaches manuals, facilitating licensing courses, developing a coaches Code of Conduct, arranging for expert and specialist coaches to deliver training clinics, education on rules of the game and creating and maintaining a library of resources including books, videos and articles for coaches to access.
The responsibility also include establishing and delivering a comprehensive and nationwide Grassroots programme at both the community level, in schools, and in the schools through clubs through strategic partnerships within the communities and with various government ministries and agencies.
TD also advices BFA on all matters related to the effective development of football in Botswana and is accountable for the development of a strategy and policy for the performance of football programmes.
Other duties include working with Youth National teams and coaches through development programmes in order to enable BFA to attain its goals within CAF and FIFA, including putting in place clear systems and processes for identifying and developing talented players.
After Letsoaka left, BFA reached out to Wire Kaelo, a Gaborone United legend currently holding the position of assistant coach at Security System FC, but eventually he was not appointed to the post.
Despite rumours to the effect that BFA had agreed terms with Kaelo to this day, the Association has not come out as to what happened to the alleged marriage.
BFA subsequently appointed one Dr Carolin Braun, on secondment from the German Olympic organisation, a move that left the association rooted in abrasive factionalism.
In particular, local coaches and the general football fanatics have always cried foul claiming that Dr Braun is not fit to hold the position of TD especially in a growing football environment like Botswana.
There is growing concern that Dr Braun does not have the pre-requisite credentials to be appointed for this plum post as she has never held any significant position within the football fraternity, not even at amateur level.
“It was a first in the history of Botswana football to see a TD doubling up as assistant coach to the senior national team and there has been no tangible coaching courses since the departure of Serame Letsoaka and this has been attributable to the vacant position of TD,” a source remarked.
BFA is currently failing to communicate CAF’s decision that the ill-fated CAF “B” and “C” courses held during Serame’s last days were not sanctioned and therefore attendants will not be certificated.
Over 50 local coaches participated in the courses and last year, most of those coaching in the Premier League had to be given waivers by the BFA Technical Committee before they could be accredited.
CAF has since indicated that the issue of waivers by national associations will not be entertained, something which might throw local games into disarray.BFA is still failing to come up with a coaching philosophy despite Serame having started groundwork before his departure.
Other countries such as Zambia have since resumed CAF coaching courses whilst in Botswana is still business as usual despite the impending challenges caused by indiscretion and lack of foresight.
Despite BFA having advertised the position of TD and subsequently holding interviews where recommendations were done by the Technical and Development Committee, the BFA NEC has refused to endorse the recommendation for reasons only best known to them.
Yet, there is a lingering fact that the NEC is clueless when it comes to technical matters. There is not even a single individual in the NEC who holds any coaching qualification including the Chairman of the member responsible for technical and development matters, Masego Ntshingane.
When asked about the position of the TD, Ntshingane said the association is well aware of the matter and will son fill the post. “Yes, it is true the association has not appointed a TD after Letsoaka’s departure, but we are working around the clock to hire capable people,” he said.
However, local coaches believe that it’s a travesty of justice to expect non-technical people to make meaningful contributions on technical matters to the extent that they can veto recommendations from a committee of renowned technical experts.
It is not business as usual in the operations manual of African football. Ever since the ascendency of Dr. Patrice Motsepe to the CAF plum post, the African football governing body is ringing changes to satisfy the demands and governance standards of the modern game.
However, it appears that what is coming out from the high offices of the game is a bitter pill to swallow for local clubs, some of which are touted to be the best in the land.
Connectedly, CAF has issued a circular to the effect that only coaches holding the CAF “A” education license will be permitted to sit on the technical dugout during the upcoming inter club competitions. This communication has been sent to all 54 CAF member associations in May 2021.
However, it seems local clubs have not been appraised on this development even though both Jwaneng Galaxy and Orapa United have shown desire to represent the country in the CAF competitions.
It comes to the fore now that the two clubs can successfully represent the country if they engage coaches with the pre-requisite qualifications which is now an insurmountable task due to the COVID-19 impact on club finances.
Both clubs have hired coaches who attended the ill-fated BFA conducted CAF “B” and “A” coaching courses which were held in Lobatse almost two years ago.
To date the coaches await the completion of the courses and certificates while CAF has made it clear that the courses were not sanctioned as they were held during the era that coaching licenses were suspended, a situation that BFA was well aware of and has since accepted the consequences.
The BFA is still at sixes and sevens on how to break the issue to the affected coaches as it is likely to cause a huge public embarrassment and backlash from the coaching fraternity.
“We all know about the problem, BFA is promising to come to the bottom of the matter as we continue to engage them,” says Botswana Football Coaches Association (BFCA) interim President, Daniel Nare.
CAF has also made it clear that this time there will be no waiver for coaches without the pre-requisite qualification because the Confederation has been too lenient in the past. During the last CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup, both Galaxy and Orapa United coaches were given a reprieve by CAF Technical Department as they did not even have the CAF “B” license.
When approached for clarity, the Spokesperson for Galaxy, Tankiso Morake said they are playing a waiting game when it comes to CAF issues especially that BFA is yet to reply to their letter. “Honestly, there is nothing concrete I can share because no one is certain about anything. We are waiting to be replied by the association so that we can finalize everything,” he said.
While United was not available for comment, it is clear that both clubs will need to hire coaches with the needed qualifications otherwise playing in this year’s edition of African football mirrors a tomorrow that may never come.
A recent study shows that Township Rollers is not only popular within the perimeters of Botswana, but has also made significant steps within the digital football platforms in Africa.
Out of the 70 African football clubs ranked on the African football digital benchmark, Township Rollers comes on the 35th position backed by a massive social media following. The club website records more than 399 000 followers and is seen as the most interactive in the local game.
This is consistent with the recent study conducted by FIFA- world football governing body- that Rollers is the only team locally that makes use of its digital platforms.
Notably, it comes out that the gap between Township Rollers and the rest of the 15 Premier League clubs is abysmal, this therefore works against creating a strong BPL brand value.
Rollers is the only club with more than 50 000 followers on Facebook, more than 20 000 followers on Twitter while its Instagram platform stands strong at 27 800 followers.
However, it is found out that much of the BPL brand value is killed by some social Facebook football fan accounts. They have stood long and have thus attracted more followers than the official accounts. Pages like Killers Pass and Botswana Football have consequently seen more than 100 000 following. Both of the accounts give 24 hour on-going updates of football’s latest news, transfers, results, video and live updates.
FIFA has therefore come to a conclusion that the two social media pages have grown interactive since they incite followers to answer and present their impressions about local football.
It comes into the open that 70 percent of domestic premier league clubs do not have official websites. This according to FIFA, kills the brand and visibility of clubs hence failure to attract lucrative sponsors by the clubs. FIFA also found out that the remaining 30 percent of clubs with websites are lacklustre and found wanting when it comes to their online presence. But in this regard, Rollers is on pole position.