There was a time when many people doubted Botswana’s first choice goalkeeper, Modiri Marumo’s abilities.
That was about four years ago when Botswana was in the fight for the qualifications of both the World and Africa Nations (AFCON) Cups. Botswana used to concede silly goals and fingers were normally pointed in Marumo’s way.
There were calls from some sections of the soccer fraternity to give the then second choice goalkeeper, Kagiso Tshelametsi.
At that time, Tshelametsi was in scintillating form at club level.
The then Zebras coach, Jellusic Vesselin, would not budge and showed total faith in Marumo.
Tshelametsi would also be given a chance in the absence of Marumo but disappointed the most, with the game in point being against Tunisia in 2005 at the National Stadium when Botswana lost 3-1. Marumo would slowly turn into an international figure.
His heroics did not go unnoticed and he is now reaping such rewards which, for many local players, are just pipe dreams.
It has now been a year and half since he moved to the Egyptian Premier League, which is one of the toughest and well paying in the world.
It all started in October 2006 when Botswana played to a goalless draw against African defending champions, Egypt.
Many thought it would be a walkover for the team that had stars like Ahmed Hossam Mido, based in the English Premier League.
It was not to be as Marumo put up a sterling performance that caught the attention of the Egyptian teams. The teams somehow thought he just rose to the occasion but he once again proved his prowess in the second leg a year latter in Cairo.
The game was invaluable for both teams because they had to win to qualify for last year’s AFCON in Ghana.
Despite torrent attacks by Egypt from the onset of the game to the end, the Egyptians ended up winning the game by a solitary goal. The man who stood between them and the goals was none other than Marumo.
The interest in him then intensified and Egypt’s Premier League club, Haras El Hodood, made a move and Marumo had to make his life’s tough decision.
“The decision was not only to leave BDF XI Football Club but also to leave the BDF as an employee. I had to take a lot of considerations into place and eventually, with some advice from people close to me, I had to take the risk of leaving my job of twelve years and head to Egypt. Already I have been in Egypt for about 18 months and I can tell you the risk I took is paying off. There are certain things I have achieved within a year and half that I did not for 12 years in the army,” he said.
The 33-year-old soft spoken goalkeeper told Sunday Standard that he is also enjoying his play at the team.
“So, far everything is going on well with me there and there is nothing much I can complain about. Currently, I am competing for a place with a Cameroonian goalkeeper, Mathurin Kameni, and the head coach is finding it difficult to have a first choice and he has been rotating us. Of all the games I played last season, I performed even beyond my expectations. When I arrived, we finished in fifth position and this past season we finished in fourth spot. Even the top sides like Al Ahly and Zamalek never find it easy to beat us. We defeated Zamalek twice and Al Ahly once. We actually knocked Al Ahly from the Egyptian Cup, similar to the Coca-Cola Cup in Botswana and even went on to win it,” Marumo said.
He looks set to be the first local player to consistently play in the Club African competitions. Next season they will be playing for the third consecutive time.
“I would say we have been doing well in African competitions. We actually bowed out in the group stages when we finished in second position. Actually there are two groups and the group winners go through. Next time, however, we want to finish in the top and even go as far as the finals,” he said.
Marumo believes there is a lot of talent in this country but there are certain limitations that might continue to hamper the country’s progress in years to come.
“Talent is there in the country for many to see, but we do not have means of nurturing it. In Egypt all clubs and even those in the lower divisions have strong youth structures and that is why the country is doing well in African competitions. If we could do the same thing in this country we can achieve a lot. It also pains me to even see some of the talented youngsters in the country not taking their football career seriously,” he said.
Just recently the Football Association of Egypt followed a pattern taken by several North African countries and imposed a strict quota system on foreign goalkeepers. In a few years, foreign goalkeepers will no longer be welcome in Egypt and Marumo views the development as not positive for Egypt.
“I still have two years left on my contract and after that I will not be welcome in Egypt. But if I get a lucrative offer before my contract expires, I would go for it and generally I do not think the move is good for football development in Egypt. Right now Egyptian first choice keeper, Hassan El Hadary, is old and nearing his retirement and his reserve sis on the bench at his team. Once he is gone there is going to be a huge vacuum and if foreigners are there, locals can
learn something,” he said.
Coming from a relatively relaxed and Christian country and moving to a strictly Moslem country, Marumo has not had difficulty in adapting to the lifestyle.
“The club I am playing for is based in a city called Alexandria about two hundred kilometers from Cairo. The city is not that busy and, naturally, I am an indoors person and I have not had many problems,” he said.