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Friday, 19 April 2024

The poignant contrasting story of another Moloi

Sport

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

Gloves off as Minister Rakgare blasts Zakhem, Jagdish

9th April 2024

Minister Tumiso Rakgare, the Youth, Gender, Sport, and Culture Minister, has declared war on Botswana Football League (BFL) Chairman Nicolas Zakhem and league treasurer Jagdish Shah, accusing them of disrupting the local football scene. He proclaimed, “We must confront these individuals who are wreaking havoc on football.” He further stated that the local football governing body is seemingly shielding these individuals.

In December 2023, the Botswana Premier League found itself embroiled in a controversy that sparked outrage among the clubs. This controversy was ignited by the league board’s autocratic decision to reduce the number of teams from 16 to 12 for the 2023/2024 season. The clubs were so incensed that they threatened to boycott league games.

Zakhem and Shah, in response to the shareholders’ move, took BFL shareholders to court, challenging their removal from the BFL board.

At the launch of Ashford Mamelodi’s book, ‘PROTECTING THE GAME’, Rakgare expressed his views, stating, “When we say protecting the game, we must indeed protect it. We must confront those who have disrupted our football by taking football matters to court ‘head on’, if we fail to do this, we are doing injustice to our football.”

He further lamented, “I am losing faith in the leadership of local football and I am saying this without fear or favour because we have individuals who seem to be protected by our local football governing body. Those people recently dragged football matters to court but are still recognized as football leaders. How can this be possible?”

Rakgare also pointed out that there are people who have been relentless in their pursuit of some of the clubs, even to the point of stripping them of their resources. This has left players relying on club equipment to play football and support their families struggling to meet their obligations.

“They have dreams of playing abroad to earn more money, but issues like these set them back. We have individuals like Tumisang Orebonye who are currently raising the country’s flag high and we have individuals such as Maano Ditshupo who have used their football skills to build a clinic in their home village. Imagine such a person being denied the opportunity to play football,” he noted.

Rakgare, expressing his determination, stated, “I am saying this with an open mind, I know some of them in the past threatened to support my political opponents at Mogoditshane, I don’t care, I will take them head on because I am ready as it is about Botswana,” he emphasized.

Zakhem, in response to Rakgare’s ‘persistent interference’ in football matters, pointed out that it poses a significant obstacle to the advancement of local football. He disclosed an instance where Rakgare publicly aired views on football matters on national television, insinuating that foreigners were dominating local football.

“He said live on national television that foreigners are the ones running local football, he was talking about me and Jagdish Shah. How can you go live on TV and say that? I am sorry to say that we are citizens of this country,” Zakhem retorted.

On the other hand, Rakgare noted that he has lost count of the number of esteemed sport administrators, politicians, and other leaders who, at the end of their careers, have threatened to author and publish books but have yet to follow through.

“In my world, Mr. Mamelodi, you join a very prestigious league of Batswana men and women such as the late former President Sir Quett Ketumile Masire (may his good soul rest in peace), Mr David Magang and Dr. Margaret Nasha, who through their books have ensured that many future generations of Batswana can benefit from their experiences and wisdom,” Rakgare concluded.

According to Rakgare, Bra Ash has spent more years in football administration than he has lived on planet earth. “Throughout his four decades of football administration, Bro Ash has worked with tens, if not hundreds of leaders that not only shaped football in Botswana, the region and the continent, but some whom have gone on to hold very important positions such as those of political leaders. In addition, I am talking of the likes of legislators Ray Matlapeng Molomo (may his soul rest in peace) and Philip Makgalemele; both from Botswana as well as Bomber Mthethwa from Eswatini, to name but a few,” he praised.

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Sport

Zebras’ goal drought cause for concern

9th April 2024

The Zebras have found themselves in a goal-scoring rut, drawing blanks in their recent international friendly tournament against Burundi and Rwanda in Madagascar. This lacklustre performance has raised concerns about the team’s readiness for the impending 2026 World Cup Qualifiers.

In the world of football, the number of goals a team scores often dictates the game’s outcome. The ability to successfully navigate the opposing team’s defence and find the back of the net significantly boosts a team’s chances of victory.

However, the Zebras’ upcoming matches against Uganda and Somalia in June promise to be pivotal for their World Cup qualification bid. Therefore, it’s crucial for the team to start scoring if they aim to advance.

The Zebras’ head coach, Didier Da Rosa, has already demonstrated his mettle in his tenure, despite a rocky start. His first assignment was a 3-2 loss to Mozambique in the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers opener in November 2023. Despite the defeat, Da Rosa saw potential in the team’s performance.

A week later, the Zebras bounced back with a commendable 1-0 victory over continental powerhouse, Guinea. This win at Obed Chilume Stadium signalled the Zebras’ readiness to compete at an international level.

With the World Cup qualifiers looming, observers believe Da Rosa needs to step up the team’s preparations. The upcoming matches against Somalia and Uganda are expected to be intense, and the Zebras cannot afford to be complacent.

The Zebras’ captain, Thatayaone Ditlhokwe, is currently recovering from a shoulder injury, which could be a significant setback. However, his return to the team could provide a much-needed morale boost.

In addition, the inclusion of midfielder Brandon Wilson could be a game-changer, provided his citizenship documentation is finalised in time. Da Rosa has praised Wilson’s skills, stating, “Wilson’s mastery of the field, his spatial awareness, and ball reception mark him as a midfield marvel. His strategic positioning is a lesson in discipline, a skill set our team can greatly benefit from.”

Upon his return from Madagascar, Da Rosa expressed his satisfaction with the team’s performance, stating, “We picked up a lot of positives from the tournament. We managed to evaluate a few individuals. It was a very tactical tournament, we didn’t concede any goal but we didn’t score any goal, which is a worrying factor. I need to find solutions in that department as it is the most key aspect of the game as goals win you matches.”

Da Rosa also acknowledged the physicality of the matches, particularly the encounter with Rwanda. “I am positive about how we played but I feel we still need to play more matches so that we get up to the standard. We are anticipating the return of Ditlhokwe, Gape Mohutsiwa and Mpho Kgaswane who could play a vital role in our quest to cause an upset when we face Uganda and Somalia in June,” he said.

The Zebras’ 2026 World Cup Qualifiers Group is a tough one, with formidable opponents like Algeria, Somalia, Guinea, and Uganda. These teams are packed with players based in Europe, and each player will need to bring their best performance to secure a place in these crucial matches.

The Zebras’ journey to the World Cup will be a challenging one, but with the right preparation and mindset, they have the potential to make their mark on the international stage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sport

Cycling for the TKC starts 15 April 2024

3rd April 2024

Preparations for the ‘Cycling for the TKC event’ are at advanced stages as 30 cyclists from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa prepare themselves to endure the 1900km ride from Pretoria to the Walvis Bay via Lobatse in Botswana. The cycling challenge will start on April 15 to April 28, 2024. As one of the activities identified to commemorate 20 years since the Trans Kalahari Corridor (TKC) member states signed an agreement to coordinate and manage TKC, the cycling event is expected to bring awareness of the corridor thereby marketing the corridor within the member states and beyond. The event will be conducted under the theme ‘Transforming the TKC into an economic corridor.’ Commenting on the theme,

The Executive Director of the Trans Corridor Secretariat Mr. Leslie Mlungisi Mpofu stated that the corridor transverses through some of the low-income communities and therefore the corridor is expected to inject economic impetus on these communities thereby creating much needed jobs, be it informal or formal employment. The objectives of the event are to promote spatial development initiatives on the Trans Kalahari Corridor and to create an increased awareness and usage of the TKC for both trade and tourism thereby increasing the volumes on the TKC. ‘ It is important to promote sustainable tourism and events like this are key in promoting tourism, economic growth, the environment as well as conservation. By showcasing the scenic beauty and cultural richness of the corridor, the event will foster deeper appreciation of the unique regions the corridor passes through’. Said Mr. Mpofu. Other objectives of the event include obtaining Member State commitment to the economic development through spatial development initiatives along the TKC, to promote road safety on the TKC in line with the UN Second Decade of Action for Road Safety as well as the African Union Road Safety Charter as well as to create a hype for the commemoration of the 20 years anniversary.

A Pledge to be signed by the ministers responsible for transport on behalf of their citizens to promote spatial development iniatitves, and committing to the development of the TKC will be handed over to the ministers for signature by the cyclists at Pretoria, Lobatse and Walvis Bay respectively. The cyclists will stop at several towns and villages along the corridor to engage with the community. Safety measures and protocols will be implemented to ensure the well-being and safety of all participants and these will include but not limited to police escort, medical support, route supervision and support. Measures have also been taken to ensure that the ride is memorable and enjoyable to all participants. Cycling clubs along the corridors members of the public who are interested are also encouraged to cycles with the key riders either to meet them before they arrive in settlement / town or to ride with them as the leave a settlement/town for a distance they so wish. Organizations, companies and public entities are also invited to participate through sponsorships.

The Trans Kalahari Corridor Secretariat (TKCS) is a secretariat of the Trans Kalahari Corridor Management Committee (TKCMC), a corridor management institution (CMI) that was established through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. The TKCS coordinates the implementation of the TKCMC trade and transport facilitation work programme. The CMI also is mandated to promote the Trans Kalahari Corridor which stretches about 1900 km from Gauteng, South Africa, across Botswana and ends at the Walvis Bay, Namibia.

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