It is that time of the year again, the jingle bells are ringing all over the place and almost everyone is getting ready to hit the road for the annual Christmas pilgrimage to the village of Mogoditshane.
For most villages, festive season would not be complete without a visit to the football pitch for the annual tournaments and Mogoditshane has never been an exception.
No date in the Mogoditshane calendar is bigger than January 2nd. This is the day when friends become enemies, loyalties are put to the test, and relationships hang on the balance pending the result of the annual football derby dubbed Matlolapata.
The tournament, like the name implies, pits one side of Mogoditshane against another in a series of football games ranging from; under fifteen, under twenty-three, ladies team, junior & senior masters, and culminates with the cr├¿me de la cr├¿me of the day’s games which involves the best talent from the village.
“This annual football extravaganza is an initiative by the sons and daughters of the village/township,” says Kehumile Kgoroba, one of the founding members.
“It came as a result of the frustration borne out of winding down the last day of the festive season with friends and family under morula trees salvaging the remainder of New Year’s meals and drinks while apprehensively contemplating the year ahead.”
He says in an effort to counter the boredom, social football clubs emerged in order to while away the day on Jan 2nd.
“In no time the concept of a day of sport, celebration & unity was on the cards. A few Pitsos were held following the first two years of these social games & the end result was Matlolapata.”
Kgoroba says the name, loosely translated to mean people who cross the road, was inspired by the criteria used to determine the composition of the teams. The village is divided by the Molepolole-Gaborone road into East and West.
“It was further agreed that hosting of the tournament would alternate between the two sides each year,” Kgoroba explains.
“As early as the nineties soccer was getting recognition as a positive sociological bonding tool in our country and there were about four clubs that represented Mogoditshane at various levels of national football leagues; Maumo Sporting Club, situated on the eastern side of the Gaborone -Molepolole road and Western Callies, Pebble Chiefs and Mogoditshane Fighters, all falling on the western side of the road.”
He says all clubs were supported by the local fans at will but with a strong predisposition to support a club nearest to their home which laid the foundation for the traditionally fierce competitive and highly charged encounters between the two camps.
Aaron ‘Route 4′ Radira, co-founder, and former Township Rollers and Zebras defender says unlike in other villages, the tournament does not put much emphasis on prize money.
In fact, he says, there is no prize money. “It is more about pride than anything else. We are all about unity and we chose the beginning of the year so the community of Mogoditshane could kick-start each year with a renewed sense of unity.”
Radira says the event is the cr├¿me de la cr├¿me of all events in ‘Mogadishu’ as Mogoditshane is affectionately known. “It doesn’t get better.”
He says as part of improving the status of the tournament and giving their young players recognition, they plan to invite various coaches and top officials from the national footballing industry to grace the event. “The tournament coincides with the opening of the transfer window so this gives our boys an opportunity to be spotted by big clubs.”
Kehumile Kgoroba says the spirit of unity that the Matlolapata generation has enjoyed as a result of coming together, playing together, laughing together, eating together, drinking together and bonding, is priceless.
“It has had a ripple effect on neighboring towns and villages as evidenced by some of the people who have become regular attendants. Some even go as far as to cut short visits to their homes many km’s away to be able to be here when it all happens on the 02nd of January.” Sedirwa ‘Chilly’ Kgoroba, also co-founder, says the tournament has over the years been a great source of entertainment for the community and those from the region.
“I have not been a part of the event for the past few years due to personal commitments but I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to Aaron (Radira), Kehumile (Kgoroba), Six Seago and their teams of organizers from both east and west for the wonderful job they have been doing so far. Their contribution, compromise and selfless dedication to ensure the continued success of the event cannot be exaggerated,” he said.
The tournament has in the past been graced by recognizable faces from various sections of the society including BMD president Gomolemo Motswaledi, and Zebras players/legends; Tshepo Motlhabankwe, Dirang Moloi, Seabo Gabankgosi,Pontsho Moloi, Tshepo Molefhe, and Mogoditshane’s very own Moemedi Moatlhaping who have taken part as guest players either side.