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.
The Manchester United defender will now focus on his club career having made 93 caps for France, appearing at three world cups and on European championship. The Les Bleus won the World cup in 2018 and Raphael Varane started all but one of France’s matches in Qatar as they finished as runners up to Argentina
With many being of the view that the state of football in Botswana has deteriorated significantly as it is no longer appealing to the business community, this was a good week for the football community. The Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership under the stewardship of MacLean Letshwiti secured sponsorship for a combined value of P19. 3 million for the FA Cup competition and the First Division league – both South and North.