Benson Shilongo’s numbers make for fascinating reading. Standing less than 3 meters tall, Shilongo tips the scales at close to 70kg, which would make him a heavyweight in the world of boxing. He is the multilingual striker who has played football since a tender age, most significantly for Gaborone United, who has instantly made him the best paid player in the team. He earns close to P20 000 and has age on his side.
Only foreign players like Mangoba Ngwenya, Sageby Sandaka, Ronald Chikomo have scored more goals than Shilongo, especially that his goals have come at a time when GU is gaining momentum in the league.
The enterprising Namibian is regarded as a goal machine. He has scored ‘for fun’ in the Premier League since signing for the team after a good showing in Institute of Health Sciences cross institutional games visit to Namibia. It is revealing about his poaching instincts that all but two of the goals against Notwane have come from inside the penalty area.
Shilongo is a predator, the sort of centre-forward who comes alive in the box, and his love of scoring has already seen him earning the love of the GU faithful. The dark days of Makundika Sakala and Dillion Chivandire are all but over.
Brought in to compete with, and complement, the talents of Tebogo Sembowa and Ronald Chikomo, Shilongo is a rough diamond who offers something a little bit different. The striking thing about him is that he is a powerhouse of a man. Once he plants those quick legs, it takes some doing to get the ball off him.
Shilongo has admitted there are moments, during matches where he likes to show off his strength by playing a little game that involves receiving possession with his back to goal, holding off the centre-half with one arm and running his studs over the top of the ball for as long as he wishes.
Despite not being particularly tall, he is excellent in the air – ‘he has good timing”, revealed his coach at GU, Rahman Gumbo – and he scored some superb headers while playing school competition games. He is not blessed with great pace or dribbling ability and, as a record of only four Premier League assists over some few months illustrates, laying on chances for others comes a distant second to getting the goals to keep up with defenders.
“The creativity, the way to pass the ball to other players to score, is always something I try to do better,” Shilongo said.
That desire to improve has burned fiercely inside Shilongo since Rahman Gumbo gave him a thumbs up. He grew up playing street football and, as a young man, he knows football can put food on his table. He is learning by corresponding with a certain school and Herbert Letsebe, GU secretary general is credited for spotting the talent in him.
Indeed Benson Shilongo has been marvel to watch for the Reds since his arrival. He is an on-field force and a leader who consistently calls the shots in the dressing room. The striker continues to offer insight one good display total football after another, driving the Money Machine to the emphatic wins over struggling teams’ week in and week out.
Athletics is one of the sporting activities that for many years has been consistently performing extremely well in international competitions. One of the reasons is the availability of qualified and experienced coaches, who have been working tirelessly on the ground to ensure that they scout talent and develop more athletes.
For the first time after eons, football clubs plying their trade in the elite league are walking in the shadow of the undefined with nothing concrete agreed and on sight before the commencement of the football season.