Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Fringe players come to the party for the Zebras

When the Zebras walked onto the pitch to face Kenya’s Harambee Stars in an international friendly game on Wednesday night, most people who packed the university stadium in Gaborone were disappointed to see Sekhana ‘Nandos’ Koko, Pontsho ‘Piro’ Moloi, Edwin Olerile and Mogakolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele sitting on the bench.

Since the start of the 2012 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers, football supporters have been accusing coach Stanley Tshosane of not using the quartet as they believed that they had what it takes to bring a new dimension to the team’s play. ┬á

Even in the absence of Mogogi Gabonamong and Diphetogo Selolwane, there was no place for the quartet in the starting line-up.

The coach stuck with the tried and tested, something some people made clear before kickoff that they were disappointed with.

The situation was not helped by the fact that the Zebras huffed and puffed in the opening stanza.
Kenya, led by European-based midfielders, MacDonald Mariga and Victor Mugubi, dictated the show in the first 45 minutes and, at times, Batswana were left with no choice but to admire the skills of the visitors.

The Harambee Stars were unlucky not to score midway through first half when Auxerre striker, Dennis Ochieng, was denied by the brilliance of goalkeeper Noah Maposa.

It was a frustrating opening half for some Batswana while others understood coach Tshosane’s approach.

When both sides came back from the dressing room, Koko and Jomo Moatlhaping were introduced for Joel Mogorosi and Onalethata Tshekiso, respectively.

It was a move which won the technical team lots of praises as supporters went into a frenzy. 
Koko is the player fans have wanted to see in action for the national team as they believed he has what it takes to create scoring chances for the team.  

Against Kenya, it did not take long before the speedy winger had a go at Kenya left-back Dennis Odhiambo. The crowd ululated and whistled whenever Koko danced past his opponents. The crowd enjoyed more when Moloi and Ngele joined the fray late in the second half.

It was Ngele who capitalised on a defensive error by Anthony Kimani to force a penalty which was converted by Moatlhaping in the 88th minute.

“You know today I’m going home a happy man. I’ve long wanted to see Nandos playing for the Zebras. Nandos, Piro and Tsotso brought a lot of difference in terms of attack and that’s what we’ve been asking for,” said one supporter clad in national colours.

Koko told Sunday Standard that whilst he has played for the Zebras against Zimbabwe in Selebi-Phikwe, he has been looking forward to the day he would play in Gaborone in front of most of his friends and family. 

“I was looking forward to this day (Wednesday night) because the game was in Gaborone. When I was named as a substitute, I thought I’d be introduced maybe in the last 15 minutes or so but when the coach told me to get ready during halftime, I didn’t believe it. I decided to go out there and prove to the nation what I can do in national colours since I have proven myself at club level,” said Koko.

The soft-spoken winger is hopeful that more opportunities will come in the future and that he will represent the country at the continental showpiece in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

“It is every player’s dream to represent his country. I want to believe that I did well against Kenya and I’m glad we managed to help improve the performance of the team in the second half,” he continued.

Koko pointed out that there was no way the Zebras could attack Kenya from the onset because they have some quality players who have international experience.

Tshosane praised all the players who came in the second half for changing the complexion of the game.

He said that though he has not been using them regularly, they came on with a positive attitude which won the Zebras the game.
“People (supporters) must appreciate what I am trying to do. These players are part of the team; it’s only that sometimes it’s difficult to change the winning team. When we were in South Africa, I talked to the players individually and they understand what I want from them. Against Kenya, we knew they would not play the same for the entire game hence we brought Koko and others in the second half to put pressure on them,” Tshosane said. The coach further pointed out that in the coming weeks, he will be monitoring all the national team players. He said he picked some positives from their game against Kenya, especially when it comes to concentration. Tshosane said that he has alerted his charges that when they take on the rest of the continent in January, they will need to keep more possession.

The Zebras’ next assignment is when they take on Togo in the AFCON qualifier away in Lome early next month. It is expected that Tshosane would continue to try different combinations which might be of great help in January.


Read this week's paper