Back in 1995, a young and fresh faced striker appeared for the very first time for local giants Gaborone United (GU) in a friendly match against city rivals Township Rollers at the National Stadium. At the time, little did young Diphetogo ‘Dipsy’ Selolwane know that it was the beginning of a stellar football career that would take him to America, Denmark and South Africa. After almost two decades of active football, Selolwane has decided to hang his football boots. On Saturday he will bid farewell to thousands of supporters who have rallied behind him over the years. Sunday Standard journalist TSHEPO MOLWANE writes.
On Saturday, Gaborone United (GU) will take on South African side Platinum Stars in a testimonial match for Selolwane. His friends will also play a select Botswana media team in a curtain raiser, as parts of numerous activities that are lined up for the day. According to the organizers, the day is all about celebrating Dipsy’s football career and his service to the nation. For his part, Dipsy said he is happy that he represented the country well and laid a path that would later be followed by other young stars from Botswana.
“It has been a very successful career for me and it was unheard of for a Motswana player to go down that route. I’m really humbled to have played in the Major Soccer League (MLS- in USA) and spent another nine years in the South African Premier League. It was not easy for me, but I managed because of dedication and discipline. Football is full of challenges especially for a young player in foreign land and one needs to have a sober mind,” said Selolwane.
He pointed out that his main challenge was having to adapt to a new environment wherever he went and delivering on the expectations of his employers.
“I worked hard at all my clubs. I kept on believing even when things were not going my way. I knew why I was there and I was not prepared to give up,” he said.
When Dipsy walks onto the National Stadium pitch at his testimonial match on Saturday, memories of his football exploits and the lovely goals he has scored will come flooding back. One of his most memorable goals is that long range shot he scored against South Africa in 1999 during the Cosafa Castle Cup. Dipsy, a nifty footballer, turned and twisted to avoid a South African defender before unleashing a long range shot that beat South African goalkeeper Brian Baloyi. Though the Zebras ended up losing the game 2-1, it was a special moment for the 21 year-old. Many believe that goal set the pace for his stellar football career and introduced Dipsy to the world of big-time football. That was the beginning of big things for Dipsy. The next day his name and picture was splashed all over the newspapers, including in South Africa.
“It was a historic goal for me especially because I scored against South Africa, a regional football powerhouse that was also an arch enemy of Botswana, at least in football terms. It meant a lot for me to score against a team that had won the Africa Cup of Nations only three years earlier, and to do it in front of local fans,” he said.
Dipsy has played for the national Under-17, 20 and 23 before proceeding to the national team. President Ian Khama bestowed upon him the Meritorial Award during the 2012 independence celebrations.
“This award will forever remain close to my heart. It was such an honor for me to be recognized by the state president. It shows that I served the nation with all my heart. The nation appreciates what I did for them and I will forever be indebted to Botswana football,” he said.
After missing out on the African Youth Championships in Mali in 1995 due to school commitments, Selolwane’s dream of playing at the continental championships came true when he represented Botswana at the 2012 African Nations Cup in Gabon.
“After donning the Zebras’ jersey for all these years, it was such a huge honor to play at Afcon. I’m retiring a happy man because I’ve achieved my international goals,” he said.
His career has taken him to the United States, where he played for top clubs Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake. He later moved to South Africa and became an instrumental player for clubs like Capetown Santos, Jomo Cosmos, Ajax Capetown, Supersport United and Pretoria University. It has been a truly successful and fulfilling career, and Dipsy believes now is the right time to take a break from active football and concentrate on developing future stars.
“I’ve achieved all I could and it’s time to call it quits. What is important for me now is to concentrate on developing future stars. I want to see another Dipsy Selolwane coming through our ranks,” he said.
Former Zebras’ coach Stanley Tshosane said he was privileged to have worked with a humble player like Selolwane and described him as a natural leader with a rare talent.
“Working with Dipsy was fulfilling and enjoyable. Though he has achieved a lot, Dipsy remains humble and grounded I was honored to have been one of the people who drilled him. The way he progressed is something remarkable and I wish we can have more players with his attitude,” said Tshosane.
He described Dipsy as a true ambassador of Botswana football who deserved the presidential award. He called on Dipsy to continue contributing to local football through different platforms.
“I know he went through a few rough patches during his time as a Zebras’ player. That should have opened his eyes and I believe he knows what needs to be done to improve the game. I just hope that Batswana will support him and I personally pledge to support him in his future endeavors. I would like to wish him all the best,” said Tshosane.
For Dipsy’s mother, Gertrude Selolwane, it was no surprise when he rose to become an international football star. She said Dipsy was born in a football family and he showed his star prowess while still at Ben Thema Primary School.
“I knew he was headed for great things. That’s why I always supported him. Some of his fans always thought he was a Zambian, saying he was too good to be a Motswana. I’m proud of his achievements and, as a mother, I hope he will do well in future,” said Mama Selolwane.