Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Soccer’s frustrated bench warmers

Sitting on the bench is not what any player aspires to. But warming the bench while a player is talented and capable frustrates the most. There are certain players who normally warm the bench but always make their mark once given a run.

Surprisingly, most of such players play in positions that have a few good players available worldwide.
Typical examples are Boniface Makolo and Aubrey Kebonnetse of Gaborone United (GU) and Township Rollers, respectively.

Makolo is a natural left back and always gives his best. Worldwide it is difficult to find a naturally left-footed player and for a country like Botswana to have him is a blessing.

While still at Rollers and Mochudi Centre Chiefs, ‘Zolo’, as he is affectionately called, was a regular, rarely on the bench. Despite career threatening injuries that plagued him in the past, he always managed to fight his way back and reclaim his position.

In the national Under 23 that took the world by storm last year, Makolo was the backbone of the team. After helping the team to qualify for the Olympic qualifying groups, he also played all the games though the team could not make it to the Olympics.

Makolo was also a member of the Under 23 squad that made history by winning the Four Nations tournament last year and finished as runners up in the Eight Nations Tournament in South Africa staged last year.

With such wealthy international experience and having already played for two other big teams, one would have thought he would be always in the starting line up.

The preferred player in his position is Bashin Modisaotsile, recruited from Ecco City Greens. Although Modisaotsile was a marvel to watch at ECCO City, he has been a shadow of himself at GU despite the team’s good run. The same Modisaotsile, who is the preferred one at GU, was also always called up for the national Under 23 duty last year, but Coach Major David Bright always preferred Makolo.

For Kebonnetse, it was more frustrating last season.
Firstly, there is a serious shortage of strikers’ world wide, including Botswana.

Being a promising striker means he has to be neatly molded by being given a chance at his team. He was only given a chance at the national Under 20 where he was deadly. He scored crucial goals that helped Botswana to qualify for the last game of the African Championships that will be held in Rwanda next year.

What caught the attention of many people was the fact that he finished as the leading goalscorer in the games the national Under 20 played. But that still was not enough to convince Rollers coach to give him a chance.

“Kebonnetse is a young player with a bright future, but personally I was not happy with what Rollers did to him and I told them. He is the kind of player who can revive the Zebras scoring fortunes in the future, but what Rollers did was uncalled for. He is a local with a rare talent but foreigners were preferred ahead of him,” said Losika Keatlholetswe earlier this year in an interview with Sunday Standard. In the current set up, it also looks unlikely for Kebonnetse to easily play because of the talented strikers in the team recruited last season. Many people were even suggesting that if Rollers do not want to let him go, they should at least loan him to a team where he can play regularly, but it seems unlikely.

Rollers Managing Director, Somereset Gobuiwang, told Sunday Standard that they would not consider loaning him because there is a new coach.
“Last season, when the boy was on fire, he also had setbacks because he had an injury that took some time to heal and the team was also under a different coach, Dikson Ngwenya. Right now, we have Rahman Gumbo and I am hopeful that once the player is fully fit he will be given a chance. In addition Kebonnetse was a student and had to prepare for his final examinations and that were some of the things we also took into consideration as management,” Somerest said.


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