The FIFA World Cup qualifier against Bafana Bafana, which was played at UB Stadium last weekend, was seen as a chance for most local players who are semi-professionals to sell themselves to big sides in the South African Premier League. Agents and club managers from South Africa, amongst them Bobby Motaung of the famous Kaizer Chiefs, were among the 8,000 spectators who crammed into the university stadium.
This clash was a life-time opportunity for most of the players who want to ply their trade in the more advanced South African league. While most players downplayed the issue of trying to secure contracts with South African clubs, inside their hearts and minds, they knew that this was a perfect opportunity.
The Zebras came into this game with a poor record against their southern neighbours having won once in six meetings. As expected, Bafana Bafana took the lead in the 14th minute when Morgan Gould headed home a perfect corner from captain Steven Pienaar.
It seemed like the Zebras were in for a serious hiding as the locals failed to come to the party. The Zebras’ supporters looked to the heavens wondering who would save the nation from an embarrassment of losing to a Bafana Bafana side which has failed to record a victory since August last year.
Little did they know that before the break, they would be celebrating what proved to be an important point at the end of the day. Against the run of play in the 38th minute, Gaborone United midfielder Ofentse Nato stabbed home from close range with South African defence at sixes and sevens.
The nation, amongst them President Ian Khama, erupted into wild celebrations. The goal added more misery to the Bafana Bafana squad but to Nato, it made him an instant hero. What made it more special is that it was his first international goal since donning the famous blue, white and black Zebras’ jersey.
Walking across the streets of Gaborone, Nato is easily recognized by supporters even those who are not die-hards.
“The attention I’ve been getting is unbelievable; it shows that goal meant a lot to the supporters. After scoring, I was crazy, more especially that it came against Itumeleng Khune who is one of the best goalkeepers in Africa. That goal will not make me big-headed, instead, it encourages me to continue working hard to achieve more,” said Nato on Friday.
The 22-year-old midfielder did not hide his wish of playing in the South African Premier League. Before the weekend’s game, he has been linked with a move to Supersport United, Bay United and University of Pretoria but nothing has materialized.
“It’s my dream to play there (South Africa) but I’ll not let it distract me. I have a job to do (at Gaborone United),” he said.
This afternoon, Nato leads his club against traditional rivals Township Rollers in the first leg of Mascom Top 8 semi-final at UB Stadium.
GU has struggled to beat Rollers in the previous five seasons but Nato is confident that they would turn the corner today.
“The morale in the camp is high and I have no doubt that we’ll beat Rollers. I would like to encourage our supporters to come in large numbers to rally behind us. We respect them as a club but their dominance over us has to come to an end,” said the towering midfielder.