Thursday, April 9, 2020

Shouldering Botswana’s COSAFA success

During the qualifications of both the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup, there was a time when the then coach, Jelusic Vesselin, was severely critisised for not giving second choice goalkeeper, Kagiso Tshelametsi, a deserved chance. Modiri Marumo was always in the starting line up and Tshelametsi rarely got a chance. Vessellin ended up giving Tshelametsi a chance.

Tshelametsi, however, did not fare well because on the several occasions he was given a run, he disappointed. Notable games that come to mind were against Tunisia and Guinea at the National Stadium, which Botswana lost 3-1 and 2-1, respectively, despite being the first team to break the ice. Tshelametsi conceded goals which many soccer pundits believed could have been easily avoided. Since then Vesselin once again occasionally used Tshelametsi and probably he had a point in preferring Marumo. Even his successor, Colwyn Rowe, prefers Marumo ahead of any other goalkeeper. Marumo has proved to be a top goalkeeper, especially during the COSAFA games.
He was once again at the centre of Botswana’s successful campaign in the COSAFA tournament last week when he made crucial saves during the penalty shootout that earned Botswana a second successive semi-final berth for the tournament.

Botswana made history by knocking out powerhouses Angola 3-1 on penalty shoot-outs and Marumo saved two of them. The one that went in was a re-take after Marumo was adjudged to have moved before the kick had been taken. It was a historic victory for the Zebras, especially bearing in mind that Angola are just fresh from last year’s World Cup. Most of the players that took part in the tournament participated in Germany where Angola was eliminated in the first round. Last year, Marumo was also in the news when Botswana booted out another African powerhouse and neighbours, South Africa, on penalties. He made sure Botswana progressed by saving Siboniso Gaxa’s kick during sudden death play-offs.
Even in 2004 when Botswana defeated Lesotho in the preliminary stages of the COSAFA tournament on penalties, Marumo was the center man and worked heroically for Botswana to emerge victorious but only to be knocked out by Angola in the game that followed.

It must also be borne in mind that when Botswana won their first COSAFA game against Namibia away by a solo goal in 2003, courtesy of Tshephiso Molwantwa’s header, it was Marumo who saved the day for the Zebras. Marumo even won himself Man of the Match award. It was a game played in one half as Namibians pressurised to equalise. But Marumo stood firm throughout and thwarted away torrential Namibian attacks.

At the age of 32, Marumo still has a bright future ahead of him. Since most goalkeepers grow with age, he can still play for more than five years of professional football. He has not even ruled out any possibility of going overseas provided the offer is good. Already, there is an offer for him to play in Albania, but the Tlokweng-born goalkeeper is reported to be weighing the options because, currently, he is an employee of the Botswana Defence Force and a family man.

Marumo’s career in football started way back in the early 90s when playing for Tlokweng’s popular side, Naughty Boys. Like most goalkeepers, he did not start as a goalkeeper but as a striker. At one stage, he was even partnering with former Zebras striker, Tshephiso Molwantwa, at a junior secondary school. He manned goalposts for Naughty Boys after being asked to do so because the first choice goalkeeper was not available. Since then he has never looked back and ended up joining the army where BDF XI immediately enlisted his services. It was, however, difficult for him to make a major breakthrough because there were experienced goalkeepers like Macro Makubate and Jacob Mothobi. Marumo also faced stiff competition from, among other goalkeepers, Odirile ‘Biemba’ Gaolebale. Even after breaking into the first team, he had another hurdle of deposing of another experienced and favourite, national team goalkeeper Thabo Motang.

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