Free kicks, corner kicks, set pieces or dead balls, as they are referred to in soccer circles, have over the years proved to be an integral part of the game.
Even when other teams cannot match their opponents, they seem to have an advantage when they are awarded free kicks.
Around the world, players like Juan Rom├ín Riquelme (Boca Juniors, Argentina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), David Beckham (Los Angels Galaxy) and former Zambian player, Kalusha Bwalya, of Zambia are some of the players renowned for their acumen when given set pieces.
Ronaldo became the first ever midfielder in the English Premier League to be the leading goal scorer. What catapulted him further were the free kicks that he normally scores.
Even Requelme, at either club or national team level, excels in taking free kicks.
Several North African countries have players who are good when it comes to dead balls. Some of them have easily beaten Botswana using dead balls despite Botswana matching them pound for pound during the entire game.
Keeping in mind that, on technique and physique, Botswana struggles heavily against many countries, free kicks could be a solution when opponents concede them near the box.
For many years, there has never been a local player renowned as a dead ball specialist. Even now, those who are given the nod to take free kicks are nothing more than chancers and are not worthy relying upon because they do not score regularly from dead ball positions. Among those who sometimes try are the likes of Pontsho Moloi and Tshepo Motlhabankwe, both of Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
In the past, Rio Maswabi, from BDF XI, was one of the few who could score directly from corner kicks.
Coaches should be blamed for not training players for the eventualities of such scenarios.
Gunners coach, Daniel ‘Chicco Dance’ Nare, concurs that dead balls are very important and Botswana is way behind in the art of executing such set pieces.
Nare, however, does not believe that coaches are to blame. Instead, he says the blame should be placed on the set up of soccer in the country.
“The football set up in this country is still at an amateur level. This then leads to the time factor because teams do not have ample time to train. Almost all teams in this country train in the late afternoons for less than two hours and, as coaches, we mainly concentrate on the important aspects like runs, movements and techniques. Our game plans are normally focused on ball playing because dead-balls on their own need time. Players with potential need an extra special time of their own to be perfect or else it would take time for us to be at par with other countries,” he said.
Nare added that even at national team level, the coaches have difficulty in helping players to concentrate on deadballs.
He said much time is taken on development instead of coordination. Nare stressed that if teams were training at least twice a day, it could be better.
On Motlhabankwe, Nare said he has strength that many players around the world do not have and, had he practiced much in his youthful years, he could be playing for a professional team somewhere.
“Naturally, Motlhabankwe has a powerful shot which many free kick takers do not have. What he lacks is technique. Even Ofentse Mmipi of Gunners can develop into a formidable dead ball taker, but the time factor is a huge problem. Let’s hope that more money will come into our football, thus turning it into a professional set up,” he said.