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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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KBL closure scuppers BFA deal

25th January 2021
Football

The negotiations involving Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) over elite league sponsorship have suffered a setback as the local brewer this week took what it termed a ‘difficult’ decision to shut down operations.

This effectively means that football sponsorship is back in
its dark corner as all efforts to go back to the field take another nasty twist in the midst of ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is regrettable that this latest total ban on alcohol sales has resulted in the suspension of KBL operations, which will remain in place for as long as the alcohol ban persists. KBL continues its efforts to engage government on this critical issue, which is having an enormous impact on the industry and its extensive value chain,” the company explained.

Although not proudly maintained at Lekidi Football Centre, the company is said to have abandoned talks on explanations revolving around ‘lack of funds.’In the initial agreement, sources say that it was settled that KBL would sponsor the Botswana Football League at a tune of P30million for a period of three years.

It is maintained that the deal was to be relooked and redefined to fit the sponsorship modalities of today’s game.Highly placed sources speaking with this publication however state that BFA is assisting BFL to cajole other companies to come on board as football is about to return to the field.

Top of the list is ABSA Bank who have remained afloat despite the impacts of the virus. The bank is said to be committed to football but sources say it will take a considerable amount of persuasion to see the bank increasing sponsorship.

KBL, in the first phase, were willing to commit without much difficulties but after the storm of COVID-19, the company was to take a back seat and played a waiting game. They reasoned that the continuous lockdown the country has gone under has left them with little income than expected.

But according to sources, KBL is still expressing pleasure to engage with the association again and will further illustrate their willingness to come on board as soon as the corona virus situation subsides.It is said KBL has requested further information regarding sponsorship value from the association and once satisfied, negotiations will resume.

However, some administrators within the National Executive Committee believe KBL’s parting message does not inspire confidence. “KBL‘s phase is over, they gave us hope but it is difficult to keep track of them, COVID-19 has affected every plan,” one member shared.

At the close last season, way before the corona virus impacted the country negatively; BFA revealed that it had long compiled its situation analysis of sponsorship value for the local game. It was understood that the property that is the Premier League could be purchased at a value P 15 million over 43 premier league games.

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Sport

BFA proposes new league format

25th January 2021
Maclean letshwiti

Botswana Football Association (BFA) President, Maclean Letshwiti.

Botswana Football Association (BFA) is engaged in protracted talks to stage a mini-league as lee-way to ascend into a proper football season by August this year.

The idea is to keep players fit and all football structures functioning as time pressure mounts.Informants say the idea is discussed at the competition office and will soon be forwarded to the National Executive Committee (NEC) for further deliberations.

This therefore means that all leagues across the country will be played for only one round until August where a new full football season will resume. Football has never returned to the field for almost 10 months now due to the corona virus.

The situation on the ground looks gloomy as COVID-19 cases continue to rise with each passing day.
Football clubs are also feeling the pinch with Sua Flamingos becoming the latest victims. The club has been forced to suspend operations as players and members of the technical team test positive for the deadly virus.

While playing a mini-league is a last resort, it is mentioned that no team will be promoted or relegated after the completion of the games.Sources say it is better than folding arms when teams are continuing to pay players without kicking the ball.

The idea of the mini-league therefore means that there will be no prize money but teams will likely survive with grants from identifiable sponsors. Already, the Botswana Football League (BFL) has secured a P 5 million television deal for over three years.

The BFL think tanks contemplate to augment the television deal with sponsorship grants from ABSA bank. According to information, this will keep the league and its secretariat running until everything gets back to normalcy.

“It is true we are thinking to stage a mini league looking at what we have but this is still an infant idea, we are discussing and we will engage NEC going forward,” a member of the association shared.BFA leadership finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place as the motion to kick start the league in February was shot down by the assembly in October of last year.

The movers of the motion argued that high temperatures usually recorded in the South of Sahara desert negatively affects player performance and their overall health conditions. However, there were intentions to commence the league at the earliest possible time but the task force together with the Ministry of Sport wanted players to be tested and football fields be fumigated regularly to avoid spreading the virus.

Early this week, the BFL leadership engaged the Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB) to give an update on how football will return. However, this publication cannot adequately establish the detailed plan of the league.

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Sport

Orapa United re-sign Ramoraka from TS Galaxy

25th January 2021
LESENYA RAMORAKA

Boteti based side, Orapa United were quick to snatch back Zebras left-back, Lesenya Ramoraka, tying him with a two-year deal after he was released this week by TS Galaxy.

The 26 year-old defender left The Ostriches in 2018 to join Highlands Park who later sold their status last year to renowned football agent Tim Sukazi of TS Galaxy. Ramoraka’s contract was to end this year July.

At the time of the sale, the team then opted not to register him for another season hoping to register him in the January transfer but his injury kept him out for longer than anticipated, forcing TS Galaxy to release him as he was free to start to negotiate with any team that may be interested in him.

“We have signed Ramoraka after assessing his injury and he is in Orapa as we speak doing his rehab.The injury is not bad and we expect him to resume light training anytime from mid- February,” said Kabo William, the club spokesperson.

Ramoraka left an impressive mark at Highlands Park where he played 29 games in all competitions and netting only once. Lee, as he is known in football circles, is one of the most trusted left backs in the country and has been a vital part of the Zebras with his absence felt at the national team.

“The team had wanted to keep him but they were just concerned that his injury was taking long to heal and they opted to release him as you cannot have a player out for too long more especially who is a foreigner,” said a source.

“He had survived the changes at the team and you have to also note that the coach who brought him, Owen Da Gama also just joined TS Galaxy and he is one of the players that he trusted and used so it is not a matter of performance but they couldn’t afford to have him on the side-lines for too long.”

Orapa United have also announced the signing of other players that include; Thabiso Boti formerly with Notwane, Kutlo Kolagano from City Eagles, Galagwe Moyana who was released by Township Rollers, Kagisano Mungu from TAFIC and the team promoted Phemelo Pushudi from their development side.

The Ostriches have released goalkeeper Bophelo Kealeboga who has signed a 2 year deal with Sua Flamingos, Mothusi Johnson who retraced his steps back to Gaborone United, Baboloki Makhura and Abdullah Hamisi.

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