The Coca-Cola tournament is arguably the biggest tournament in Botswana.
It is not only a gate way to African Club competitions, but the prize money of the tournament has increased drastically this year. This should then mean that teams take a keen interest, especially since they do not have to spend a lot of time and resources compared to the league that runs for a longer time.
Despite intense competition, the Coca-Cola tournament has played a pivotal role in developing many players in the country.
Since its inauguration almost twenty years ago, the Coca-Cola tournament has been used by teams as a talent hunting ground for upcoming youngsters.
Although many of such promising youngsters have vanished, there are others who are still active.
Players like Phineas ‘Jiki’ Maimela and Odirile ‘Biemba’ Gaolebale were spotted by Township Rollers while doing wonders for Selibe-Phikwe Senior Secondary school. Both players ended up outstanding at Rollers and helped the team to win vital trophies.
Things changed when they joined institutional teams and are now hardly noticed.
Maimele joined Police XI while Gaolebale joined BDF XI where they are still employees.
Currently, when talking about Coca-Cola tournament, players that come to mind are the likes of Mompati Thuma (BDF XI), Tiroyanodimo Mohambi (Gaborone United), Pius Kolagano (Uniao Flamengo Santos), Tshephiso Molwantwa (Notwane) and Mogakolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele (Uniao Flamengo Santos).
Although Thuma was not that famous when he played for the national Under 17 in 1997, his fame rose afterwards when he was at Lotsane Senior Secondary. The memorable year being 1999 when Lotsane featured in the finals of BISA, which was sponsored by Coca-Cola and even curtain raised for the finals.
Thuma was the pillar of strength during Lotsane’s campaign to the finals, which included defeating the then unstoppable Selibe Phikwe Senior Secondary.
Unfortunately in the finals, Lotsane were defeated by Ledumang, which also had many rising stars in the team.
From Lotsane Thuma joined Motlakase only for Mogoditshane Fighters to snatch him from them latter on. From Fighters he went to BDF XI, where he is still a pillar of strength.
Thuma is also a vital cog in the national team and at times he is the acting captain in the absence of Marumo. Any game without him would be bad news for the country.
When Ledumang Senior Secondary School were the dominating force of the Coca-Cola championships in the late nineties, Kolagano was one of the outstanding players and it was not surprising when many teams, including Notwane, came knocking for his services. His bone-crushing tackles were phenomenal. He ended up playing for almost all youth teams in the country, eventually making it into the senior national team where he was also a force to reckon with.
Molwantwa also came to prominence while at Ledumang Senior Secondary. His goal scoring instincts saw the school taking the glory that for years was dominated by Selibe Senior Secondary.
Molwantwa made a huge impact at national team level because he also played for all national youth teams and made it into the senior one. Many people are still calling for his inclusion in the senior national team because it is struggling in front of goal since his departure.
Mohambi made a name for himself while at junior secondary school in Selibe Phikwe, and he also eventually joined the national Under 17. But when he moved to Lotsane, he strengthened the already tough school.
The latest young player who came to prominence through Coca-Cola championships is Ngele.
Many people got to know him two seasons ago when his school, Naledi Senior Secondary, terrorised other schools. He has since made a name for himself and has been called up to some of the senior national team camps.
In last year’s Coca-Cola tournament, he helped his team to reach the finals where they were defeated by Mochudi Centre Chiefs. He scored crucial goals that ended up earning him the Golden Boot Award.
The same Ngele has once again helped Santos to reach the semi-finals where they will lock horns with Centre Chiefs next weekend.