Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Are current foreign players in Botswana competent enough for league football?

In the 90s almost every team in the elite league had a foreign player. Most of the foreigners were mainly strikers especially from neighbouring countries such as Zambia and Zimbabwe. A team that did not have a foreign player was seen as not being serious to compete for honours, considering foreign players were seen as sent messiahs.

Some of the big foreign names in those years included the likes of Joseph Chikoti, Francis Chisenga, Kennedy ‘Computer’ Jere, Edison Mulubwa Webster Kurwaisimba, Mandla Balanda, Langson Phiri, Gary Mkandawire, Boniface Mukhonde, Summer Ncube, Maghebula ‘Culture’ Mpofu, Abraham Mubanga, Maybin Chama, Masausu Tembo, Fabian Zulu, amongst many.

Without a doubt, the foreign legion made a huge difference in the teams they played for. For instance Chisenga and Mulubwa were vital cogwheels for Lobatse side, Extension Gunners who were almost unstoppable and terrorised other teams. Gunners won many honours like league championships for three consecutive years from 1992 to 1994 and even Coca-Cola. Chikoti was also a household name from 1993 to 1996 when Rollers were also relentless by winning several honours like league championships including the Coca-Cola tournament.

Chikoti’s exploits saw him leaving Rollers to join professional ranks in South Africa where he turned up for Wits University. By the turn of the century most of the above mentioned players were either retired or back in their home countries and the crop that came immediately after them were relatively average players and there was not much difference between them and the local players.

Some teams ended up not using foreign players at all and relied on locals while only a few signed one or two. This went on for some time, but of late it seems most local teams are slowly luring more foreign players into their teams. Almost all teams in the Premier League have foreign players in key positions. On his part football administrator, Segolame Ramothwa told Sunday Standard that, “For a long time we have had a problem with strikers in Botswana and that’s why many teams are once again going for foreign players.

We are in a situation where we want to turn professional and that is what we should expect because many foreign players will come here to try to make a living,” he said. Ramothwa’s concern however is that most of the foreign players gracing Botswana’s elite league are below average, something he said will kill Botswana football. He said most of them have taken places that could have otherwise be taken by local players.

“There are two or three good foreign players in the country, but others leave a lot to be desired. In the 90s most of the foreign strikers in the country were good quality and you could see most of them were far much better than our players.

Currently it is a different case,” he said. Ramothwa called on the football authorities in the country to come up with a deliberate plan to try to save the situation. One football administrator who preferred anonymity told Sunday Standard that most teams are interested in below par foreigners because they are under paying them. He said most local players would not go for meager salaries currently offered by many local teams.

“Our teams are paying peanuts and they know that they can easily exploit foreigners even if they are no better off than the local players. That is the reason we are not seeing a return on many foreign players in our country,” he said.

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