Monday, September 28, 2020

Knocking on Rowe?s door

Normally in football, defenders are not given the attention they deserve, no matter how heroically they perform. Recognition is mainly accorded to the strikers because they are the ones who bang in the goals. The only recognition defenders get is, in most cases, negative especially when they make mistakes that result in goals. After conceding goals, they are booed and labeled names by hard to please supporters. Nevertheless, there are some defenders in local soccer who have gained admiration for their dazzling skills. The trio of Gabriel Bokhutlo, Mmusa Ohilwe and Moreetsi Mosimanyana, have earned themselves praises from many Batswana for the performances they always display, especially when donning national colours of the Under 23 team. The trio has been the heart of the Under 23 defence and is seen as a future prospect for Botswana.

The recent great improvement of the national Under 23 is mainly accorded to the trio because of their aggressiveness, never die fighting spirit and ability to deal with trickery strikers. Before the duo of Ohilwe and Mosimanyana came into the spotlight, Bokhutlo was the one who was mainly known in soccer circles because his team, Township Rollers, has a huge support and he is a regular. The duo of Ohilwe and Mosimanyana burst into the scene after being seen in action for the Under 23. Ohilwe, who is playing for BMC, once had a stint at Comets but was not given the recognition he reserves. Even Mosimanyana, who is now playing for the second division side, Orapa Wanderers, once played for Tafic, but that was a time when Tafic were fighting tooth and nail to avoid relegation. Information reaching The Sunday Standard indicates that many teams are queuing for the signatures of both Ohilwe and Mosimanyana and it would not be surprising if, in the next transfer window, they leave their respective teams. Other rumours even suggest that there is a possibility for one of the players to play outside the country. That would be an honour for Botswana because it is really difficult for foreign defenders to break the ranks of the international market.

For 19-year-old Bokhutlo, things started rolling last year when Rollers were playing a respected Zambian side, Zesco United, in an African Cup competition. He had to fill the big boots left by Lolo Mosojane who was then injured. Bokhutlo impressed many people by containing a dangerous, towering and muscular Zesco striker. Despite his short height and slender built, Bokhutlo also did a tremendous job when the Under 23 historically defeated Angola 2-0 at the National Stadium a month ago. He also had to deal with muscular and physically strong Angolan strikers, but he stood his ground and easily dispossessed Angolans. Bokhutlo also played a vital role when Botswana, once again, booted out African giants, Tunisia from the Olympic qualifying games. He also had to deal with the towering and rough Tunisian strikers, but he was steady enough to win applause. He even reminds many people of players like Celestin Babayaro from Nigeria, who now plays for New Castle. Despite his short height, Babayaro is one of the best defenders in the world.

Bokhutlo did not play the final leg of All Africa games qualifier against Angola and even in the first leg against South Africa. It was evident that there was a void in his position as opposition strikers mainly attacked from his position. When Botswana won the second leg away on penalties, Angola had scored one of their goals from the right back position. Even last week when the Under 23 lost 2-0 to South Africa, one of the goals came from the right back position and some soccer experts believe that if Bokhutlo was present Botswana would not have conceded such goals.

Ohilwe, who is the captain of the Under 23, has so far played all five official games for the team. He is maturing with almost every game and shows that he is not a captain by a mistake. He even has the ability to tame the so-called quick and slippery strikers with ease. Ohilwe can even be an all round defender when other positions are porous. Even former Township Rollers striker, Mmoni Segopolo, sings praises for the player. Segopolo told The Sunday Standard that if Ohilwe can maintain good concentration, he could go places.

?I have known Ohilwe while playing for Comets. He is improving with every game and I think it is only a matter of time before he makes it to the senior team because he has all the qualities needed from a defender. I would not even be surprised if he can make it to the professional ranks outside the country,? he said.

Mosimanyana played only one game for the Under 23, and left some tracks that many soccer followers still talk about to date. He was unfortunate because he received his marching orders in the Angolan game and the following week got injured while doing duty for his team, Wanderers.

The youthful Mmadinare-born la has a physique body that reminds one of West African players. He is aggressive and never afraid to go for a tackle even under difficult circumstances. Since most local defenders are not physically strong, he is seen as an answer. Against Angola he played admirably against physically strong strikers. The Sunday Standard can reveal that his team is inundated with calls from several Premier League teams. This then means his chances of playing for Wanderers the following season are slim.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.