Saturday, July 31, 2021

Cooper pioneers road to the Copper Belts of Zambia

A season has passed since Mothusi ‘mini’ Cooper switched from Township Rollers to Lusaka Dynamos in the Zambian league. And what a stellar season he has had!

Since making the switch, the diminutive midfielder has never looked back, raking in some man of the match performances to go with the cup silver ware him and his team won.

As the first Motswana footballer to ply his trade in the Zambian league, Cooper’s stellar performances may have opened a new market for fellow Batswana footballers in the Zambian copper fields.

Given Cooper’s pioneering exploits in the Zambian league, should other local footballers consider the league as a pathway to growth?

With regard to keeping players sharp and active, Yarona FM sport presenter and football analyst, Kagiso ‘Fox’ Phatsimo said Zambia is a good option for Botswana right now because they have an active League.

He said as underrated as the Zambian league may have been, any country with an active league is better than Botswana. 

“Players should consider any country because they will get to play and learn beyond their comfort zone, like Cooper did. Learn from different cultures and be exposed to different styles of play. This will not only benefit players but the country as well at Zebras level,” he said.

As the country awaits for the league to resume in August, Phatsimo said it is only right for players to make their own platform to be recognized outside the borders of Botswana. 

“Our players could ask Cooper to set up trials for them, that way they can go show their skills. It is a way of creating an opportunity for them,” Phatsimo explained.

“Let us send more players to Zambia. We need as many players to play outside Botswana as possible. It is not even a case of ‘Is Zambia better than RSA’ It is a case of, ‘Any place is better than this’. Any place where one gets to play is better than here,” he said.

While lauding Cooper’s pioneering spirit, he said for others to follow, they need to first have interest first and goals, adding that if not, they will not improve, local football will not improve and Zebras will not improve.

“Is Cooper the best player in Botswana? No. One of the best but not THEE best. So, we have a pool of players who can shine in Zambia and South Africa. Tlhalefo Molebatsi is another talent who can shine in any League in Southern Africa when given the opportunity. We have a pool of Batswana who can shine out in Zambia and RSA if they make it there,” he said.

“Credit must be given to Cooper because he decided to go to a League which was not followed much in Botswana and excelled,” said Tshepo Molwane football analyst.

He explained that Cooper saw an opportunity and, in the end, made Batswana realize that Zambian Super League is more competitive than here.

“He can use the Zambian League as a stepping stone to bigger Leagues in the continent and abroad. ZSL is watched by a lot of scouts hence Zambian players play their trade in North Africa, DRC, East Africa and Europe,” Molwane observed.

“The fact that Zambian players like Patson Daka who was recently signed by Leicester City have broken in the European Premier League will make more scouts to have interest in Zambian League,” he added.

Molwane however said even though Cooper has been successful in Zambia, it may not be the same with others as it depends on an individual and the level of success they wish to accumulate.

“Mentality is key and, in this case, Cooper’s mentality was right because he decided to go to a League which is perceived by many players and supporters as low key compared to PSL. Most of our players do not have the right mentality to survive outside our borders. Look at Tumisang Orebonye and Kabelo Seakanyeng! They survived in Morocco because of their mentality,” said Molwane.

Commenting on the issue, Kagiso Kgaogano said Botswana players are talented and can play in any league in Africa if they are determined and focused.

“Playing in a foreign league means you have to offer something extra ordinary that the locals at that point can not offer. In the case of Cooper, the boy coupled his skill with hard work, raised his head and put a brave performance in crucial and tough games,” Kgaogano explained.

“For our players to be absorbed and last at foreign leagues they should always work extra hard and be focused. We have never struggled to export players year in year out but most come back because they lack determination,” he said.

Kgaogano said for local players to succeed, they must emulate the likes of Modiri Marumo, Diphetogo Selolwane and Mogogi Gabonamong, who are just a few of those who became household names outside Botswana’s borders.

“Our players should not be complacent soon after securing moves abroad. They should work extra hard to cement their places because to me no one can afford to keep you if you are a bench warmer,” he said.

Kgaogano said the fact that the likes of Seakanyeng played week in and week out in Malta, Mpho Kgaswane in Azerbaijan, Nato went to India proves local footballers can play and excel anywhere in the world.

Regarding the Zambian league, Kgaogano said it can be a good market for our players as proven by Cooper and some Batswana women footballers who stamped their authority immediately after joining.

“We must stop thinking that South Africa is our only market. Maybe our agents should start looking for opportunities all over the world than just focusing on our Southern neighbors,” he concluded.

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