Saturday, January 22, 2022

Khunwane hopes for league’s winning medal

When young Thabiso ‘Mere’ Khunwane was growing up at the Special Support Group (SSG) Camp in Gaborone, he never thought that one day he would be rubbing shoulders with the stars of Botswana football in the Premier League, let alone playing for one of the popular clubs in the country. His passion for football was like that of any other young Motswana boy. Today, the bald-headed Khunwane plays for Mochudi Centre Chiefs and has represented the national team at Under 20 and 23 level.

Despite all these achievements, Khunwane remains humble and continues to push himself harder to achieve bigger things.

His rise to stardom started when he joined Notwane development side in 2000 under the current Gaborone United (GU) assistant coach Chris Rabalago. As has been the case with many youngsters who have been developed at Notwane, Khunwane had to go elsewhere to get his break. It was in 2008 when he was recruited to Extension Gunners by the club’s assistant coach Nelson Olebile.

Though he was hardly given a run, he appreciates what Gunners have done for him.

“I joined Gunners after I completed my Cambridge examinations. It was an unbelievable experience to train with Gunners and players like Maano (Ditshupo) and (Ofentse) Mmipi who were so supportive. I’ll always be grateful to the club because they offered me a platform to showcase my talent at a higher level,” said Khunwane.

But he did not last long at Mapantsula as, last year, the talented centre-back had to move to Gaborone to further his studies at the University of Botswana. This meant that training in Lobatse would become a bit difficult and he opted to join the expensively-assembled Chiefs.

It was a move which shocked some of his peers considering that Chiefs had experienced defenders like captain Mpoeleng ‘Stopper’ Mpoeleng, Tshepo ‘Talk-Talk’ Motlhabankwe, James Kachinga, Itayi Gwandu and Calvin Masire. “Football is all about taking risks and I knew that by joining Chiefs, I’m going to learn a lot from the experienced players in the team. I want to believe that if I want to be the best, I’ve to compete with the best. Being here (at Chiefs) is a challenge because everyone expects you to be on top every time and I believe that this is a test of character for me,” said Khunwane.

Since he settled at the heart of Chiefs’ defence in the past season, most football supporters have never stopped showering him with praises. He continues to grow with every game and the good thing is that he has not let his early achievements to go to his head.

“My father continues to encourage me to do well and I don’t want to disappoint him,” he added.
Asked how is it to play alongside some of the big stars of Botswana football like Pontsho Moloi, Joel Mogorosi, Motlhabankwe, Jabu Pilane and Jomo Moatlhaping who are part of the national team, the youngster said that it is a dream come true.

“Training and playing alongside the players you mentioned every week is unbelievable and it brings the best out of you. They’re passionate and want the best for this famous club. What is encouraging about these players is that they are not jealous and they want to see the youngsters achieving the same feat like they have done,” he continued.

At the start of this season, it was reported in the media that Gaborone United were interested in the services of Khunwane but the move never materialised.

Khunwane confirmed that he heard the reports but said that GU never approached him formally. He said that at the present moment, he is enjoying himself at Chiefs and he is focused in doing well for the Kgatleng outfit.

“Looking at the quality that we have in our team, I believe that we can win the championship come the end of the season. We’re working hard every day and if we can maintain the same discipline until the end we can achieve it (winning the league),” he said.

Magosi last won the league title in 2008 and have since been runners-up for the last three seasons.

He has called on their supporters to continue rallying behind the outfit even when things are tough.

The 20-year-old defender said that playing in front of the passionate Chiefs’ supporters brings the best out of them.

“They (supporters) are our inspiration and this season we want to win the league to thank them for being there for us,” said the Ramotswa-born defender.

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