Sunday, September 20, 2020

Can Notwane revive their African glory?

Most Botswana teams always perform pathetically in international competitions, as they always bow out in the early stages of the competitions. The only teams that managed a few steps further are Township Rollers and Notwane. Last year, Rollers missed the group qualifications of the Confederation Cup by a whisker, while Notwane nearly made it to the quarterfinals in the mid nineties.

After almost a decade’s absence from the competitions, Notwane are once again back, courtesy of winning the prestigious Coca-Cola Cup. They will host an Ethiopian army team in the Confederations Cup on the weekend of January 27-28. The question that is now bubbling to the top is whether Notwane will disappoint the nation, like many teams have done in the past, or if they will carry on where they left off in 1995 when they reached the last 16 and were defeated by a South African side, Pretoria City, now Supersport United?

What could be noted then was that the teams that defeated Notwane always made it to the late stages of the competitions. Notwane performed heroically in the 90s but, however, did not manage to progress. Games that come to mind were against the dangerous Angolan army team, Premeiro De Agosto. The two teams met consecutively and De Agosto was always the victor.

In the first game, Notwane held De Agosto away to a one all draw, only to lose 2-1 at home. The second game was even more painful for Notwane.

Notwane lost heavily, 4-1, in Angola but the return leg was full of drama. Many supporters did not turn up because they thought Notwane would not avenge the score line.

Notwane ended up winning the game 4-2 and lost by an aggregate of 6-5. In the game, Notwane could have buried De Agosto with an avalanche of goals, but the South African referee who handled the game spoiled the day as he denied Notwane more than three goals that looked legitimate.

On the other hand, Notwane currently have a relatively new squad and most of the old guard that played for Notwane then has called it a day. Only three players that made the famous Notwane team are still playing. The trio is Zambian international, Fabian Zulu, Agisanyang ‘Barcos’ Mosimanegape and Phadzha Butale, who has just returned to the team after a one-year absence due to school commitments.

Zulu, who has since moved from midfield to the defence, laments the current Notwane crop saying it still has a lot of work to do if it is to resemble the mid nineties stars.

“We had a great team then and did not have to be pushed to win, and that made the coach’s job easier. That is why we were always winning most tournaments at home. I think the current players do not have the same winning mentality we had and they have to work hard if they are to progress to the group stages of the tournament,” he said.

Zulu also said their team had a good understanding of each other on the field. He singled out the deadly combination of Thazo Tiwayi and Shono Madonsela, which he said was one of the best striking forces he has ever seen at the team.

“Madonsela was a good finisher and knew how to position himself. Tiwayi on the other hand was a playmaker who did all the dirty work for Madonsela to finish off,” says the man who has been playing for Notwane for close to fourteen years now.

Other deadly players Notwane had included the likes of Odirile ‘Biemba’ Gaolebale, in goals, Terrence Mophuthing, Malombo ‘Festival’ Thari, Robo Khonzapi, Masausu Tembo, Maybin Chama and Desmond Hambira.

Notwane might struggle in the tournament because they might play without two of their influential players. Talented midfielder, Dirang Moloi, is on the verge of signing for a Cyprus team while Gobonyeone ‘Shoes’ Selefa is training with Mochudi Centre Chiefs. If the duo goes, it would leave the midfield a bit shaky because Moloi had developed a good combination with Keoagatse ‘Barnes’ Radipotsane.

They had already taken their partnership to the national team. Having already represented the country at national team level, his experience in African competitions was going to be vital.

Selefa’s departure would also mean trouble in Notwane’s defence, and if the management cannot rush to find his replacement, more problems lie ahead. Selefa has also had a bit of international experience because he represented Botswana at youth level.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.