In the past, it was certain that local players were perceived as not good enough to play outside the country, especially in neighbouring South Africa. The few players that went there in the mid and late nineties came back after a very short period of time.
Some of such players are the likes of Terrence Mophuting and Itumeleng ‘Tumie’ Duiker. At one stage some local players like Kagiso Tshelametsi and Mogogi Gabonamong went to try their luck in Trinidad and Tobago but still they came back home after claiming to have not been paid since they got there.
Things look to have drastically changed as it is also seemingly becoming a norm for a local player to join the ranks of South African Premier League before every new season starts. South Africa Premier League was previously dominated by players from other Southern African countries especially Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Angola.
Local players are slowly making inroads and have impact in their teams. That has changed a bit as local players are also joining elite leagues even in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The player who actually opened the floodgates was former Zebras and University of Pretoria player, Diphetogo Selolwane. When Selolwane came back from a short stint in Denmark and joined Cape Town Santos in 2006, he was joined by Gabonamong from Township Rollers within a short period of time.
Since then local players have been slowly making their way into the South African Premier League. Other players that are already there include Mogakolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele, Kabelo Dambe (Platinum Stars), Ofentse Nato (Mpumalanga Black Aces), Joel Mogorosi (Bloemfontein Celtic), Kekaetwe ‘Mara’ Moloi, Galabgwe Moyana, Modiri Marumo and Ntesang Simanyana (Polokwane City).
The other three players in the elite league in the DRC are Phenyo Mongala, Jerome Ramatlhakwane and Dirang Moloi.
Gaborone United coach, Major David Bright, told Sunday Standard that the increasing number of local players outside is good for the country and also shows that indeed football in Botswana is developing.
“Obviously if you have a lot of players playing outside the country, it makes it easy for the senior national team coach to bring results which is definitely good. It also shows that coaches in this country are doing a marvelous job and should be congratulated for that,” he said.
Bright also added that by having more than ten local players outside the country it is also something that was long coming in Botswana.
“If you look at it carefully you will see that from the time of Ben Koufie who was the Technical Director to Losika Keatholetswe you will see that slowly something was cooking. Many coaches were trained, meaning that kids were not only taught basics, but the right ones,” he said.
Bright added that even youth structures were live and that is why many good players were produced while others ended up going outside the country. Bright, who once coached in the South Africa Premier League, added that one reason that resulted in the Zebras qualifying for 2012 Afcon was the fact that there were structures that were supporting the team. He said currently that is not the case and it is taking football backwards.
“We would like to see more local players continue going outside the country. But if that is to happen, our youth structures should be functional and make the senior national team a force to reckon with. Currently our structures are shaky and, as such, it takes our football backwards,” he said.
Bright said football administration is a major problem in Botswana, adding that if it is not taken seriously, it might affect all the structures of football.