Thursday, November 30, 2023

Foreign players overshadowed but valuable

For the past few seasons, there has been a debate about the foreign players’ contribution to local soccer. Some people argued that they are no longer needed because locals are overshadowing them, especially when it comes to scoring. Even this season local players have proved their mettle by overshadowing foreigners tremendously. The top five leading goal scores are locals and the only foreigner who comes near is Nicholas Gora from Tafic who has scored 17 goals compared to the leader, Pontsho Moloi, banged in 22. Last season, locals overshadowed foreigners and the only foreign player who came near was Richard Mwanza of Police XI.

On the other hand, foreign players might have not found the back of the net regularly, but many of them have been making invaluable contributions, especially in the mid field where they do all the leg work and supply the local strikers to score.
For instance, the current champions Ecco City Greens’ top goal scorer, Malepa Bolelang, had to rely on Zimbabwean international Mandlekosi Sibanda for most of his goals. Sibanda, who was playing as an attacking midfielder, did a tremendous job for Ecco and used his height to open the way for Bolelang and Nicholas Matlhare. He also engineered most of the movements that resulted in goals.

Runners up, Mochudi Centre Chiefs had to rely on Zambian Aaron Kale, who also did the most damage in mid field. When times allowed, Kale even went to the extent of scoring when least expected. Moloi, who is already a top leader in the just ended league, is all thanks to Kale. Another Chiefs top striker, Jerome Ramatlhakwane, scored 18 goals mainly because of Kale. Kale is a silent destroyer who is not afraid of taking on any player and is a good ball crosser. He might be short but his work rate is overwhelming as compared to most of local midfielders.

BDF XI’s towering striker, Bernard Simakwenzi, might also not have delivered as was expected. The Zambian started the league like a house on fire as he scored continuously but off the field issues affected him. Although he did not continue to score, he helped his team mates, like Mpho Mabogo, to do the job. Mabogo scored eighteen goals also thanks to Simakwenzi, who is also not selfish when in possession. Simakwenzi also uses his height to open spaces for goals. Since the matter surrounding him for being a defaulter is now water under the bridge, this coming season he might be a different player and might bang in many goals.

Gaborone United (GU)’s performance improved tremendously after the arrival of their Zimbabwean internationals, Sageby Sandaka and Itayi Gwandu. Despite coming at the beginning of the second round, Sandaka ended up scoring 14 goals, thanks to his fellow country man, Gwandu. What is surprising many people about Sandaka is the fact that he is short but always finds his way past towering, rough and tough defenders. If there is a player who can shape the midfield, it is Gwandu. At the time he arrived, together with Sandaka, GU was in a bit of a crisis. The team had already fired their coach, Stanley Mwaanga, and hired Luke Masomere, who had to turn things around by bringing both Gwandu and Sandaka whose understanding of each other on the pitch dates way back to Zimbabwe. And the results started coming in. Just like Simakwenzi and Sibanda, Gwandu also has a good height which he uses to create spaces for his fellow teammates.

Richard Mwanza might not have been the country’s leading goal scorer since coming to Botswana, but last year, he was instrumental in helping Police XI to win their first ever championship medal since their formation in the 60s. This year, Police XI also finished in a reputable fifth position and Mwanza played a vital role.

In their first season in the Premier League, Tafic’s foreign duo of Nicholas Gora and Mohammed Chawila made their presence felt. Gora ended up scoring a whooping 17 goals. The Zimbabwean international is one of the few strikers who have aerial strength. It did not come as a surprise when most teams started looking for his services. Tafic might find it tough to keep him because several teams are reported to have put tempting offers on the table.

Somalian international Chawila started the season well, but his progress was hampered by a spate of injuries he suffered.

Foreigners’ contribution is even evident at the coaching level. Of the top four teams in the Mascom Premier League, three of them are coached by foreigners. The only local is BDF XI’s Stanley Tshosane. Of the bottom three teams, two were coached by locals while only Prisons XI was under a foreigner, Stanley Mwaanga. Mwaanga, however, took over the reigns while the team was not doing well. Previously, it was under a local, Emmanuel Letswiti. Upon assuming the reigns, Mwaanga had to battle for his work permit and did not sit on the bench for most of the games.


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