It is every team’s dream to have players in the national team. Once the team has several of its players in the national team, chances of fairing better in both domestic and international competitions are high because the players get exposure and experience which they pass on to their fellow teammates. Some teams are privileged enough to have three or more players in the national team. For instance, teams like Township Rollers and Notwane always have three or more of their players in the national team, while other rarely even have one.
A team like Prisons XI occasionally has their players featuring in the national team, despite being seasoned campaigners in the elite league. The question is whether they do not have good players, or their players are always overlooked. The situation at the ‘Warders’, as Prisons are known in soccer circles, goes a long way back. Normally, Prisons XI either has one player or none at all in the national team. A few years back, they used to have Kabelo ‘Battery man’ Kgosiyang but he has since been dropped despite his scintillating form at the team.
In the past, Prisons used to be represented by players like Aubrey Mmoko in goals. But he was only used as a substitute. No matter how heroically he performed, he was always an understudy to the first choice goalkeeper, and sometimes he did not make it into the team at all.
On whether the team never has national team material, Prisons management differs. Team manager, Thatayothe Ditirwa, believes local coaches are biased against teams like Prisons XI. He said Prisons normally never has a player in the national team if it is under the tutelage of a local coach, but if a foreigner comes on board things change.
Ditirwa gave an example of Kgosiyang, whom he said was a permanent feature when Veselin Jelusic coached the Zebras, but things took a different turn when Bright took over.
“Immediately, when Jelusic took over, he was fair and always selected players on merit, and most teams had fair representation. We had Kgosiyang in the team and he did very well. But when Jelusic left, in came Bright who dropped him.
“Since Bright was temporary, another foreign coach, Colwyn Rowe has taken over I hope things will change and we will have some of our players in the team,” he said.
Ditirwa also added that in the past, local coaches who doubled up by coaching the national team were very biased in the way they loaded the national team with their team players; something he said is not healthy for local football development. Ditirwa also emphasised that one of their good players, who is taking the Premier league by storm, Moses Magwaneng, was also recently dropped from the national under 23. He said no reasons were given as to why he was dropped. He was, however, optimistic that if the player continues with his form, he would make it even to the senior team.
Ditirwa also conceded that lack of representation in the national team affected the team because their players do not get exposure as other teams’ players do.
Ditrwa would not want to say whether lack of national team representation is behind their lack of winning major silverware as compared to two of their compatriots, Police and BDF XI.
Both Police and BDF XI have major medals to show off while Prisons has none. Prisons are seen as underachievers, despite ample government resources at their disposal. Their only major achievements include being the league’s runners up in the early 90s and being the 1994 Coca-Cola cup semifinalists where they were knocked out by Lobtrans Gunners through a single goal. Currently, the team has just found a winning formula after winning two of their past games.
One Prisons player who spoke under conditions of anonymity blames Prisons technical department for the team’s downfall. The player said the department is not taking the team seriously as compared to BDF and Police.
“BDF and Police always make sure their teams have quality players, but Prisons Department does not care. We use the same players over and over again and even rejects from other teams,” he said.