When, in July 2009, Mpoeleng ‘Stopper’ Mpoeleng dumped Notwane Football Club, a club he had served for more ten years, for Mochudi Centre Chiefs, many supporters were left shocked as they believed that he was committed to Toronto’s cause.
Diehard Notwane supporters cried uncontrollably as their efforts to keep him at the club proved futile but the versatile defender was convinced that his days at Toronto were over. He was looking for a new challenge and, most importantly, a league medal which had eluded him for the time he had stayed at Notwane.
Since he arrived at Notwane as a 19-year-old from Tumasera, Mpoeleng won every medal available in Botswana football but to his disappointment he has never lifted the league title. When Chiefs came calling for his services, Mpoeleng did not think twice.
Though it was difficult to leave a club which has become more of a second home to him, he had to think about his ambition. That is winning a league medal.
“Chiefs are an ambitious club and it was an honour for me to get an offer from them. Since it was my dream to win a league’s medal, I did not hesitate to join them. Though it (winning the league) has taken more than I thought for me to win the league, I think the time has come,” said Mpoeleng.
Chiefs are currently leading the standings with 60 points with seven games to go, 12 points ahead of second-placed Township Rollers. Though anything is possible in football, the nippy defender pointed out that nothing would stop them from winning their second title in many years.
Magosi last won the title in 2008 when Mpoeleng was still with Notwane.
“We (Chiefs’ players) made a commitment that we’ll win the title this season and the way we’re focused, nothing will stop us. Personally, this would be the greatest moment for me winning my first league medal as a captain of a big club like Chiefs. Being a captain pushes me more to achieve this goal (winning the league),” Mpoeleng continued.
As a captain of an expensively assembled side, Mpoeleng has led by example, only missing four games this season. He pointed out that having been together as a team for a long time has made things easier for him as a skipper.
“There is respect amongst the players which has made my role a lot easier. Chiefs’ players are like a family and their relationship is unbelievable. Even the management has been fantastic and there’s nothing to complain about,” said Mpoeleng.
He has been part of a Chiefs’ side which finished second to champions Rollers on two consecutive seasons and he thinks that has taught them a lesson. He said when coach Madinda Ndlovu arrived at the beginning of the current season, he asked them why they are failing to win the title despite having the best squad on the land.
“That question from the coach pushed the players all the way. The good thing is that we’re taking each game as it comes. That alone has helped us to win games and we accord our opponents the respect they deserve,” he added.
Personally, Mpoeleng believes that he has not disappointed in the field of play. He has steered Magosi’s ship from the left-back position having done the same under the mentorship of Rahman Gumbo.
“I love the game of football hence I always ensure that I perform during match days. When I go into the field, I put aside my personal problems. I want to continue playing because I take inspiration from other world stars that’re going strong though they’re older than me,” said the 32-year-old. Despite performing consistently over the past three seasons, Mpoeleng has failed to convince the national team selectors. But that has not stopped him from performing.
“It’s every player’s dream to get selected for the national team but I can’t cry about it. The coaches know what they want for one to make it to the Zebras and I have to respect that. All I have to do is to focus on my club,” he said.
He appealed to their supporters to rally behind the club in large numbers as they close in on the league. Mpoeleng pointed out that their supporters play a bigger role when they sing and dance at the stadiums during their games. “Our supporters have been unbelievable this season and I want to urge them to keep on coming. With our supporters, I think we can go on to win a treble (League, Mascom Top 8 and Coca-Cola Cup),” he concluded.