It is an honour for any player to don the national team colours because not everybody can make it.
Playing regularly, coupled with scoring against big teams, is even a greater achievement.
The football world is now taking a keen interest in Botswana’s arguably up-coming top striker, Jerome Ramatlhakwane, as he makes a name for himself across the African continent.
The player has done the incredible because he is sitting pretty well at the top as leading goal scorers in the qualifications’ for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
So far, he has four goals under his belt and, with three matches to go, he might increase his tally.
His predatory instincts might take Botswana to their maiden appearance of AFCON and he might end up being recruited by big teams around Africa and even in Europe.
What should, however, be taken note of is the fact that of the four goals Ramatlhakwane scored, three of them are against top African countries.
This means he possess what many strikers around the country do not have. He scored two goals against 2004 African champions and World Cup regulars, Tunisia, both at home and away, in historic victories for Botswana. His latest goal was at home on Wednesday.
The other goal was against 2006 World Cup debutants, Togo, in Gaborone two months ago. The goal was special because it was the winner after Togo nearly gave Botswana a scarce by equalising.
The fourth goal for Ramatlhakwane was away in Malawi in a one all draw encounter in which the hosts had to equalize.
Ramatlhakwane is doing all these wonders despite the frustration he is facing at club level.
His South African Premier League team, Engen Santos, did not recognize his predatory instincts and saw him as a surplus. He did not even make it to the bench and has since been loaned to another Cape Town side, and Premier League rookies, Vasco Da Gama.
He is yet to play a single match because he is waiting for his work permit. After the Tunisian match that was well attended, Ramatlhakwane told Sunday Standard that he was happy with his performance and will continue to work hard despite the setback at club level.
“I am happy with my performance now against a big team like Tunisia. I am also happy because I have once again scored against them and definitely we will make it to AFCON 2012,” he said.
Before leaving for South Africa almost three seasons ago, Ramatlhakwane was the leading goal scorer in the Premier League when he was playing for Mochudi Centre Chiefs and was recruited by Major David Bright at Santos. Things started taking a different twist for Ramatlhakwane when Bright left the club.
National team coach, Stanley Tshosane, told Sunday Standard that Ramatlhakwane is the best striker for the country and the system he uses at the national team makes things easy for him.
“The system that I normally apply at the national team requires someone who is quick on and off the ball with predatory instincts and Ramatlhakwane suits that. He can even develop into a great striker this country has ever seen if he keeps on working hard like he is doing now,” he said.
Tshosane also said his working relationship with Ramatlhakwane started long way back when he was playing for BDF XI Juniors, called Matebejane. He said upon realizing the potential Ramatlhakwane had, he advised him, together with another national team player, Ndiapo Letsholathebe, to look for teams where they could play regularly and expose their talent. This was because BDF XI then had great strikers like Gary Mkandawire.