Saturday, June 15, 2024

Makwengwe honoured at colourful Coke awards

When Philemon ‘Big Phil’ Makwengwe was named as an interim coach for Premier League giants Gaborone United (GU) to replace fired Zimbabwean gaffer Elvis Chiweshe in April, there were many doubters, with the club’s management tagged “Jokers of the Year”. ┬á

That did not distract the Reds’ executive as they stuck with their decision. To his credit, Makwengwe also did not let the critics make him lose focus and it did not take long before the Reds turned the corner.

Though the League was beyond GU’s reach, Makwengwe’s only hope was to land one of the available knockout cups, the Mascom Top 8 and Coca-Cola Cola Cup. In the Top 8 semis, nemesis Township Rollers proved to be too strong for Makwengwe and his arsenal. Through his guidance, the Reds forced their way to the final of the Coca-Cola Cup where they were fought it out against the buoyant Mochudi Centre Chiefs at UB Stadium on August 5.

Before the final, GU were said to be dead and buried by football commentators. But the ever-confident Makwengwe pointed out that he was not afraid of the expensively assembled Chiefs and hinted that he had come up with a plan which would send their opponents tumbling.

The much-awaited day came and Makwengwe and his charges had to come up with the plan which they said would stop Chiefs in their tracks. He came from the dressing rooms in a black suit, white shirt and red tie, resembling the sponsors’ colours. Confident as he was, Makwengwe greeted the Chiefs’ bench with a big smile. Most importantly, he hugged Chiefs’ gaffer Madinda Ndlovu and wished him Luck. The entire 90 minutes, GU did not allow Chiefs to play their normal passing game which makes them dangerous.

After fulltime, the score was goalless and both sides went to extra-time to see if they can produce the winner. Still there was no result. Chiefs was clearly the more frustrated of the two sides and their supporters were seen licking their lips. It was tough.

Then came the penalties, where former Chiefs’ goalkeeper Noah Maposa saved from Mpoeleng Mpoeleng and Tshepo Motlhabankwe to give his side the much needed silverware. ┬áIt was the last edition of the Coke Cup, which had eluded the Reds for over two decades.

Interestingly even GU’s hot-heads were celebrating forgetting that a few months before, they questioned Big Phil’s appointment. The final also marked Makwengwe’s end of tenure at the club as he had to return to his employers, Botswana Football Association (BFA) after three months of unpaid leave.

As he returned to his office at Lekidi Football Centre, the Mahalapye-born gaffer was happy that he had brought smiles to long-suffering GU fans. When the Coke Cup nominees were released in the past week, Makwengwe’s name appeared amongst the Coach of the tournament. He faced stiff competition from Nelson Setshwane of BDF XI and Ndlovu. While to many the writing was on the wall, Makwengwe remained cool and collected.

Finally on Thursday night Makwengwe was rewarded for his efforts which have seen GU beating Mochudi Buffaloes, Motlakase, Green Birds and BDF XI before reaching the final.  The award sees Big Phil smiling all the way to the bank P10, 000 richer.

“This is the biggest honour so far and I’m so grateful. It comes at a time when most people appreciate the good work I did at the club. I never doubted my abilities despite the negative things which were said.┬á What pushed me harder to deliver silverware is the confidence which the management of GU showed in me. I would wake up at night and pray that things go accordingly,” said Makwengwe.

He added that taking an unpaid leave was the toughest thing ever in his life but he was prepared to do it. What makes the former Police XI and Tlokweng United coach happy is that the risk he took bore fruits in the end.

“It was a pleasure for me to win that award in the presence of the previous four BFA presidents. They all contributed in my growth and I could not believe it seeing them all there,” he said.
Makwengwe has served under Olebile Gaborone, Ismael Bhamjee, Phillip Makgalemele and David Fani since arriving at the football association in October 1999.

“I’ll always remain indebted to GU management and supporters for the opportunity they gave me. I would like to urge the players to continue giving Major David Bright the support they gave me when I was at the club,” he pleaded.

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