Thursday, June 20, 2024

Nato: fitting into Gabonamong’s shoes with ease

Just before the start of 2012 Orange Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), bad news befell Botswana’s soccer fraternity.

The engine of the national team, Mogogi Gabonamong announced his planned absence from the national team, if certain conditions are not met. Many Batswana, who already had given up on the team following lackluster performances, expected nothing but humiliation for the national team.
Botswana would start the campaign against Tunisia, the former African champions who were at the World Cup four years ago.

The Zebras were even given a low key sent off and even the media never bothered to give the team comprehensive coverage.

The Zebras shocked Tunisia by a solitary goal.

Many people wondered how an underrated team such as Botswana could upset former African champions.
Some critics went to the extent of giving the excuse that Tunisia had fielded a third string team because they knew Botswana would be a walkover. Critics, however, started to keep quiet because the victory over Tunisia was followed by other impressive performances by the Zebras who beat the likes of Chad and Togo that were with Tunisia at the 2006 World Cup.

The Zebras won all the encounters, including an away draw to Malawi, without the services of Gabonamong who played for all the junior national teams in the country and made his senior national team appearance at a very young age in 1998.

Since then, Gabonamong never looked back.

However, many people did not notice Gabonamong’s absence from the team because the team was performing satisfactorily.

The player who seems to be slowly taking over Gabonamong’s position is youthful, Gaborone United midfielder, Ofentse Nato who has fitted in well in the midfield.

Nato defends and attacks at the same time. His ability to go long range outside the box makes him a real threat to Gabonamong.

He made his debut last year against New Zealand and has been excelling every time he is given a chance.

Even at his team, Gaborone United, he was the pillar of strength when the team was eliminated in the late stages of the African champions’ league. Their most famous victory was against South Africa’s Orlando Pirates. Although they were knocked out by Zimbabwe’s Dynamos just before the group stages, Nato managed to score.

Nato’s former coach at the national Under 20, Teenage Mpote, praises the youngster, saying that he is not surprised by his heroic performance at the national team.

“When we called Nato to the national Under 20, he was a defender. After assessing him and looking at the way he plays we converted him into the role of the defensive midfielder. Since he was still young and willing to learn, he adapted quickly. Also the other factor that helped him a lot was the fact that we played several matches in the African continent before being knocked out by South Africa. That improved his physical, psychological and competitive level,” he said.

Mpote also added that Nato has the ability to move forward and attack with his long range shooting ability. He, however stressed, that despite easy adaptation of Nato into Gabonamong’s position the latter is still highly needed in the national team set up.

“To start with, Gabonamong plays professional football and is highly skilled. We definitely need him and youngsters like Nato have a lot to learn from Gabonamong. He comes a long way with the national team and this is the time he should also be leading the way,” he said.

Gabonamong has put his international career on hold, saying he needs improved allowances and insurance for national team players from the Botswana Football Association (BFA).

BFA have, however, expressed optimism that he will soon be back to the national team because they are still holding discussions with him.


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