For a considerable number of years, the foreign legion of players in the Botswana Premier League mainly came from the two neighbouring countries, Zimbabwe and Zambia. It was very unlikely to have a Premier League team without a player from those countries as this was regarded as being unserious.
However, other nationalities were not interested in playing in the Botswana Premier League, and preferred to ply their trade in South Africa, even if it meant playing in the lower divisions. Most foreign coaches in the country back then were mostly from Zambia and Zimbabwe. However, that trend seems to be changing as other nationalities are also trying their luck in Botswana. Some players even from countries such as Burundi, Namibia, Malawi and even South Africa are gracing the football shores of the country’s Premier League.
Last season, two top Namibians, Benson Shilongo and Jerome Louis did exceptionally well in the Premier League. There are even reports that Shilongo might join a South African Premier League side after impressing at the recent regional COSAFA tournament which his country won. Louis also finished as one of the leading goal scorers at his club, Township Rollers. Other Malawians in the country include the likes of Lawrence Majawa of Township Rollers and Louis Minjali of Police XI. Already Malawian top striker Jimmy Zakazaka is in the country for trials at BDF XI and more players are rumoured to be on the way. Zakazaka once played for the South African Premier League, Free State Stars. There have also been South African players who once played in the elite league. Such players include the duo of Manqoba Ngwenya who played for Township Rollers and Benedict Vilakazi who had a stint at BMC.
In South Africa, Ngwenya once played for top spenders Sundowns while Vilakazi played for Orlando Pirates. Sports consultant, Monty Gagomokgwa told Sunday Standard that the sudden influx of players from other countries shows that the league has indeed grown compared to the previous years. “Just from the time our league was transformed from the First Division to the Super League and then Premier League. The prize money has also improved a bit and even teams are paying much better unlike before. Previously, only Zambia and Zimbabwe had players here. But if some players are coming from other countries, it means there is something good about us,” he said.
Gagomokgwa also stressed that Botswana’s qualification to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) that was held in Gabon and Burkina Faso played a role in marketing Botswana football. He said since then, Botswana is now in the world map. “I think by qualifying for the 2012 Afcon, it made many people to take note of the country and even the Premier league. As a consultant, I always receive so many calls even from some players from different leagues across the continent. I think we are also reaching a stage whereby our league will in the future attract the best players in the region,” he said.