When the Botswana senior national football team, the Zebras, took on the much fancied “Pharoahs”of Egypt in the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers recently, many people were kept on the edge of their seats by a magnificent twister and turner with the famous number 7 on his shirt. The man had just recently scooped the Coca Cola Cup player of the series award.
He is Dirang Moloi, the younger brother to Mochudi Centre Chiefs’dribbling wizard, Pontsho, and elder brother to Notwane’s rising star, Pako. The vastly talented midfielder has a big heart and aggressive approach to the game. Having lived all his life in arguably Gaborone’s most notorious locations after Old Naledi, White City and Extension 27 in Broadhurst, aggression was never going to be something new to the Zebras talisman. But unlike many of his childhood friends, his childhood was not marred by poverty and hunger.
These are the locations that are permeated with law enforcement officers on patrol. It is simply because crime is alleged to be ripe in these areas of the city. His club administrators have tried to move him to a quieter residential area of the capital for fear something might happen to their asset but without success.
Dirang believes people have ability to choose even if they live in the so-called bad areas like Extension 27.
“I was brought up in a well-grounded family. In fact, my childhood was nice. I learned then all the values that grace me now: respect, humility and sacrifice.”
True to his word, Dirang’s grandfather is a former legislator, having been the area councilor for a couple of years.
The beginning of the current Mascom Premier League season was magnificent for Notwane’s Willie Dennison’s heir apparent as he steered the team to countless wins.
There is no doubt, however, that the modest maestro single-handedly stewarded “Thimi e Bosese” as Notwane is popularly dubbed by its fans these days, to Coca Cola Cup glory. His stunning strike against the country’s number one net minder Modiri Marumo was no ordinary goal. The Coca Cola Cup was his crowning glory, seeing Dirang rise to the occasion when his team needed him most. Why, some may ask? This is because Notwane had just lost one of its prized assets in Dirang’s elder Pontsho to Centre Chiefs. It goes without saying that Pontsho has always been Notwane’s match winner, the one that set ablaze the entire team, without whom, fellow teammates seemed out of sorts in most cases. His tight ball control is his main attribute though.
The previous season was not a good one for the tiny monster as he was, in most cases, at the receiving end of both good and bad match officiating. Sometimes the young star would go over board after being roughly tackled, resulting in cautions and ultimately marching orders from the whistlemen. In some instances, the referees would just target the skilful player for very trivial offences, such as in the Mascom Premier League game against condemned Tlokweng Naughty Boys when he was red carded after being rough tackled.
Says Lameck Mpofu of Extension 27, who also happens to be Dirang’s neighbour and friend: “This guy had thousands of tackles and goals hidden in his boots. I believe he is yet to reach his peak. We grew up together playing street football.”
But tackles and goals are not all he can do. He is a tremendous maker of chances, capable of holding on to the ball until a defensive crack appears through which to send the deadliest of assists. Tremendously entertaining, he knows all the tricks, but never aims to please, just to win.
As a kid, he graduated from the streets to play for the insurmountable Notwane youth team coached by Lawrence Phiri. This is the team that produced the cream of the Mascom Premier league like Othusitse Mahube and Kemmy Pilato (Lobtrans Gunners), Pontsho Moloi (Centre Chiefs) Barcos Mosimanegape (Notwane) and many others.
Dirang, typical of a Notwane Youth team product, has progressed through all the national teams. He currently doubles up playing for the National Under-23 team and the Zebras.
The soft -spoken lad says he owes his progress in football to all the coaches who had drilled him.
Evidently, Dirang is expected to play a leading role in galvanizing both the Zebras and Banks Panene’s Under-23 side to great things.
Earlier during the current season, Dirang was subject to transfer speculations.
“Yes, some teams were interested in my services. I cannot mention names now because I am happy at my team Notwane. All I want to do is help Notwane win things. The word transfer is not even in my vocabulary at the moment,” said Dirang.
But will Notwane hold onto arguably the brightest midfielder on the local footballing scene today? Time will tell!