An emotional farewell for Makwengwe
by Tshepo Molwane
When Zambian striker, Makundika Sakala, stepped up to slot home the decisive penalty which handed Gaborone United (GU) their first ever Coca-Cola Cup glory at UB Stadium on Sunday evening, interim coach, Philemon Makwengwe, looked up to the heavens to thank Almighty God for having guided him to such a remarkable achievement.
The Reds had not won the Coca-Cola Cup since its inception in 1992. Despite reaching the finals in 1993 and 2000, they went home empty handed.
In their first final, they were hammered 4-1 by rivals, Township Rollers, before losing on penalties to Mogoditshane Fighters in 2000. It was the only cup in Botswana football which had eluded the Reds in the past.
After his appointment as a part-time coach for the Reds following the sacking of Elvis Chiweshe in April, some quarters of GU supporters did not rate Makwengwe and at times hurled insults at the Mahalapye-born gaffer. But that did not dampen his spirits as he believed he has what it takes to turn GU into a force to reckon with.
After bowing out of the Mascom Top 8 semis at the hands of cross-town rivals Township Rollers, Makwengwe knew that the only thing which would make the Reds’ management happy was to win the last edition of the Coke Cup.
In the build-up to the final, Makwengwe remained calm as he believed he had prepared his arsenal well for the expensively assembled Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
After a hard-fought 120 minutes of goalless football, the sides had to go for post-match penalties to decide the winner. In the end it was GU who won 4-2 thanks to the acrobatics of their goalkeeper, Noah Maposa, who saved two penalties from Mpoeleng Mpoeleng and Tshepo Motlhabankwe.
While GU players and supporters went into wild celebrations, Makwengwe knew that his four-month task had come to an end. It was an emotional goodbye for him as he has to return to his fulltime job at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) where he works as a technical officer.
“I’ve become close to everyone at the club and it’s not an easy thing to wish them goodbye. I’ll always respect all those associated with the club for having granted me an opportunity to lead their club. I’m happy that I leave after helping them to win the Coke Cup, which has eluded them (in the past 21 years),” said Makwengwe.
Despite winning the Coke Cup and leading the Reds to the fourth-place finish in the league, Makwengwe said he was not impressed by red-hot GU supporters who were always criticizing him.
“I know that there are those who are not convinced by what I have done for the club. I would appreciate if they (supporters) would come and watch training sessions before they attack coaches.
I wish they’ll give the next coach (Major David Bright) the necessary support in order to achieve big things next season,” added Makwengwe.
On their performance on Sunday, Makwengwe said that they planned to neutralize Chiefs’ midfield because that is where their strength lies. He pointed out that he instructed his players not to allow Dirang Moloi and Lesego Galenamotlhale much time on the ball.
“If you give those players a chance to play, they’ll kill you. I’m happy that our plan worked well and they were substituted,” he said.