Friday, January 22, 2021

The curious case of Botswana footballers ÔÇô Why local players fail abroad

For Botswana exports to the lucrative South African and African football market, it has always been a case of ‘same script, different characters.’

Hugely talented footballers sent abroad to showcase their talent, only to return home a season later after failing to make the grade.

Jerome Ramatlhakwana, Omaatla Kebatho, Dirang Moloi, Moemedi Moatlhaping, Lebogang Ditsile and Galabgwe Moyana, just to mention a few, are some of the talented locals who have tried their luck in South Africa but failed to last.

Ramatlhakawana and Moloi would then have another chance, this time in DRC, but they also did not last the distance.

Following a successful showing at the 2016 COSAFA tournament, another hugely talented local, Onkabetse Makgantai was signed by AS Vita in DRC. However, as with his fellow locals, Makgantai, who is still contracted to the DRC club has failed to make the grade and has subsequently been loaned to Orapa United.

Now, as the duo of Kabelo Seakanyeng and Kgamanyane pack up to try their luck at Chipa United, the big question is whether the two players can succeed where most of their predecessors failed, whether they have what it takes succeed outside the borders of Botswana.

“When it comes to our local boys, it is not a question of whether they are talented. Our local boys are very talented. It is just a matter of mental strength,” local football analyst and player intermediary Monty Gagomokgwa opined.

He continued; “The main reason why our footballers fail is that they are too comfortable here at home. Once you make it into the elite league here in Botswana, you become a star overnight and you do not even have to work hard to earn the adoration of football supporters.”

Gagomokgwa said once local players move into competitive foreign environments where they have to fight for recognition and the right to play, they fail to shine as they have been moved out of their comfort zones.

Concerning Botswana’s latest exports to South African, Gagomokgwa said they have their work cut out for them.

“I would very much like to see some of our local players succeed outside the borders of Botswana. If these two guys can stake a claim in the starting lineup of their team next season, I will know that we are progressing as a nation, I will be happy,” he said.

The same sentiments were echoed by another player intermediary Simisani Chilisa, who said lamented the ‘lack of discipline and hunger to succeed’ as a downfall for Batswana players.

“Unlike players from other African countries, Batswana players are comfortable where they are. Our players fear going into the unknown and do not have any ambition beyond playing for local giants like Township Rollers. For them, playing for these local clubs is the pinnacle of their careers, what they yearn for,” he opined.

Chilisa said had local players gone through hardships like their other fellow African footballers, they would then probably have had a drive and a hunger to go beyond the Botswana football market.

“Even if they get paid a lot of monies wherever they are plying their trade, they are likely to have some home sickness and if they are in South Africa, they’d probably come back here after games,” he said.

On what needs to change, Chilisa said the onus is on local players to change their own mindset. “Batswana players have talent, but they need to change their mindset,” he said.

“I have been lucky to sit down and chat with Diphetogo Selolwane, who is one of the country’s best exports to South Africa. During our interactions, he told me that when he was plying his trade abroad, he learnt to live a disciplined life and to focus on succeeding. That is the mentality that our players need to succeed outside the borders of Botswana,” he concluded.

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