As one of Gaborone’s most successful teams, Notwane Football Club has had it all in the past, getting silverware regularly and boasting a support base from the elite and the city’s business class.
However, times have changed and while soccer has boomed into big business, the club’s fortunes have nose dived. Despite its elite support, Toronto, as the team is affectionately known, has not kept pace.
It has become an open shop for teams with bigger budgets, selling players to help keep afloat, in effect turning it into a developmental pool for clubs like Township Rollers, Gaborone United and Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
The well-known brothers, Pontsho and Dirang Moloi, emerged from Notwane, as did the reliable and experienced Mpoeleng Mpoeleng, who all drifted to Centre Chiefs. As a rookie and a promising goal poacher, Keaketswe Mara Moloi has also left for Centre Chiefs.
Over the past five seasons, Notwane has been ailing, with poor administration and under-par performances becoming a hallmark.
Former Notwane defender and now radio soccer analyst, Fabian Zulu, reminisces about his days at the club. He recalls with nostalgia the historic defeat of South African giants, Orlando Pirates, during the Hyundai Challenge Tournament at a National Stadium packed to the rafters.
“That team was not like any team of these days…it was the best that I have ever played on. We had hunger for the game and were self motivated. Most importantly, we worked as a unit,” said Zulu.
The team prevailed and survived without sponsorship, said Zulu, recalling the time they reached the last 16 of the CAF champions league. A well-oiled machine, Notwane boasted of talent in the likes of the late Shono Madonsela Ngaka and Tazo Tiwayo.
Zulu remembers his worst season, and probably that of most Notwane supporters, as the 2007/2008 season. The season saw an exodus of managers, coaching staff, quality players as financial blues hit the club.
“What even made matters worse is when the management wanted to do away with most of the senior players at the same time. The team management at that time preferred a new crop of young players,” said Zulu.
Last season saw Notwane perilously close to relegation, ending 13th on the premier league log, two points ahead of the now-relegated Prisons IX.
However, Zulu said the team shows promise of emulating the class of late 90s and early 2000s.
“We should not rush to judge the team now…it will get there. The new owner shows he cares a lot for his players and that means great things for the club,” said Zulu.
“Fortunes have been changed, and Notwane is sending a message to its opponents this season that they now mean business,” said Jimmy George, another reputed soccer analyst.
Thanks to changes brought by new owner Gift Mogapi, gone are the days when Notwane would groom players only to lose them to the moneyed clubs, said George.
The Sunday Standard and the two soccer experts got in a deep analysis on Notwane’s most talked about two South African imports, Manqoba ‘Shakes’ Ngwenya and Benedict ‘Tso’ Vilakazi.
He has proved what a quality player he is. He will be useful as a motivator for young boys. He can also help with technical issues just like in the European top leagues where senior players assist the technical staff.
I watched him play a friendly against Centre Chiefs last week and he was fantastic. Contrary to what many are saying, Tso is not finished goods yet. I also had a chance to chat with Vilakazi. I told him what would be expected of him and that he should be a team player.
I have also watched him play last week and he played brilliantly, even scoring in the 2-0 friendly against Centre Chiefs. Even Centre Chiefs coach Innocent Morapedi gave me positive commentary on these players. These two will combine together with Tshepiso Sox Molwantwa to make the season’s deadliest combination.
A player of his calibre will not only be useful on the field but also off it. This is shown by Notwane giving him a three-year deal. He has a FIFA B coaching licence and might end up joining the technical team.
A player like Vilakazi will also attract a lot of attention not only to himself but for Notwane and the Botswana Premier League. The league will be taken into consideration and as you know what mileage does to sport, many benefits will be reaped.
Playing alongside Vilakazi or against him will also be a motivation itself. He is experienced, having played for big teams in South African football, the national team and in Europe.
It is pity he has no international experience and was not successful in the domestic league. But he can be a surprise package at Notwane as he played for big clubs like Mamelodi Sundowns.