Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Molefe ÔÇô the philosopher king of football

At the evening of a football career that resembles a roller-coaster ride; veteran midfielder schoolboy Molefe is more of a mentor than a team-mate to youngsters trying to break into the hustle and bustle of top flight football
I am sitting with Tshepo “schoolboy” Molefe who is regaling me with stories of how he was plucked from the streets, barely out of his teen and thrown into the deep end of premier league football.
The 30 year old Extension Gunners mid-fielder is bubbling with patches of wisdom, bits of home grown philosophy and a sprinkling of zest that cast him more as a philosopher king than a man who passes his weekends chasing the pig skin under the scotching sun.
This is hardly surprising. The veteran footballer grew up fast: One moment he was juggling the ball on the dusty patches of Extension 27 where he had turned up for a coaching clinic, and the next moment he was in a dressing room with premier league players whose names he remembered from the radio football match broadcasts.
As a youngster he would turn up for coaching clinics at Extension 27. One day in 1999 an admirer, who was mesmerized by the nimble-footed teenager whisked him off to the Township Rollers ground for trials. The star struck teenager found himself plumb in the middle of the Rollers team which had some of the brightest stars in the local football firmament ÔÇôamong them Mmoni ‘States’ Segopolo, Biki Motibudi, Tshepiso ‘Sox’ Molwantwa, Desmond Molefe and Aaron Radira. It was a star studded side and it was not going to be easy for a 16 year-old green straight from the streets to break into the team. “I did not believe that it was happening. All of sudden I was training with players whose names I used to hear on radio and whose faces I had only seen on newspapers. My first instinct was to run away, but the senior players like Route 4 (Radira) and Sox (Molwantwa) gave me a lot of support. That eased pressure from me though it took me a while to be signed. After two seasons struggling to be in the first team, I moved to Gunners where I still found it difficult to break into the first eleven”, remembers Molefe.
He returned to Rollers in 2004 and it was then he got an opportunity to shine in the team which he signed for as a youngster. “Donning the blue and yellow jersey was a dream come true. Rollers have a huge following and this brought the best out of me.”
At the time, there was no money in Botswana football. It was all for the love of the game and making a name”, he says.
He was part of one of the most successful Rollers sides that won the league, Coca-Cola Cup and Kabelano Charity Cup.
After brilliant sojourn at Rollers where he played a key role in the CAF Champions League campaign, Molefe had a short stint at Gaborone United before he joined Gunners in 2009.
He has been the team’s spark plug man and years on the bumpy ride are now coming in handy as he helps youngsters in the team to find their feet.
“My football career has been a roller ÔÇôcoaster ride. I’ve had ups and downs but the most important thing was to remain focused. Playing for these big teams came with a lot of pressure because the supporters are hard to please,” he added.
Despite the talent he possessed, surprisingly Molefe never played for the senior national team. He only played at the national Under-17, 20 and 23 but he is not worried. “I cannot cry over that because I’ve done my part in the junior teams. Maybe the previous Zebras’ coaches felt that there were other players who were better than me in my position,” he said.
Molefe says today’s youngsters are lucky because they come at a time when there is lots of money. “I use my experience through the years to advise them. Some of the youngsters don’t have patience because they want to break into the starting line-ups immediately. The other thing is that it easy to lose focus and be swept away in the euphoria of supporters’ idolatry.
“When you play for a bigger club you will have friends who do not come with good intentions,” he said.
Molefe believes that the current squad has what it takes to finish inside the top four bracket come end the end of the season. Gunners had a blazing start to the campaign when they beat rivals Rollers 1-0 at the National Stadium on September 13. But after that they lost two consecutive games to Orapa United (1-0) and BDF XI (1-0). On Wednesday afternoon, they were held to a 1-1 draw by ECCO City Greens in Francistown. “I have no doubt that we’ll compete. It is normal that you can lose some games along the way but we’ll get there. We have a coach (China Matlhaku) who is a father figure to us and we have no doubt that he will take us to the Promised Land. What is important is for our supporters to rally behind the team and we’ll not disappoint,” said the 30 year-old.


Read this week's paper