Last season when Botswana’s prolific striker, Diphetogo Selolwane, joined South African Premier Side, Capetown Santos, he was always in the news. Selolwane took the South African league by storm as he scored in most games he featured. Many soccer pundits even went to an extent of saying he could have been the league’s leading goal scorer had he not joined the league midway through. Selolwane’s goal scoring instincts even led to several top clubs taking a keen interest in the player.
This season, however, things are different for Selolwane. He seems to have lost his golden touch in most of the games he plays. Of the 19 games the team played, he has only been able to find the back of the net two times. Santos are also even in an uncomfortable position in the league and all the team’s hopes are in him to redeem it as he did last season. Some people are wondering what could be wrong with Selolwane.
In an interview with The Sunday Standard, Selolwane mentions several reasons for not hitting the back of the net regularly as he did last season. One main reason, he says, is that he does not play regularly as a striker but in the middle of the pack where he supplies the strikers.
“Things are a bit difficult as compared to last season. Almost every team we play against, I am always tightly marked. I am always surrounded by more than two defenders. Defenders never give me space to breath. But as a striker, I have to also look at ways of eluding them. If you watch our games closely, you would also realize that I am rarely the top man and cannot easily score from deep in the midfield,” he said.
Selolwane also said one reason he struggles to score is because Santos have signed many players this season, and this has lead to their coach, Rodger Desa, using different tactics and systems to accommodate all the players.
Selolwane also admitted that since the commencement of this season his form has slumped a bit. The man who cut his teeth at Gaborone United pleaded with the supporters to be patient saying he would soon do what he does best: scoring goals.
After the end of the league last season, he was showered with praises for helping the team finish in the top eight bracket. Even though he says it was all team work, many of his team mates and the hard-to-please Western Cape media singled him out for resurrecting the team from the doldrums.
Another Botswana player who plays with Selolwane at Santos, Mogogi Gabonamong, is on top of his game. Gabonamong is marshalling the midfield and most of the goals Santos score are orchestrated by him. Even though Santos are struggling a bit, Gabonamong rarely starts the game from the bench. Towards the end of last year, he scored his first Premiership goal against one of the most expensively-assembled teams, Kaizer Chiefs. Even though Santos ended up losing 3-2, Gabonamong had a very good game.
The former Township Rollers player plays in a variety of positions in midfield; sometimes he is on the left, on the right or even help the defence.
Gabonamong, however, says that competition in the team is tense and if one gets injured or losses form, he might find himself on the sidelines for a long time even after recovery.
“It is really tough out there and one needs to put extra effort. I am competing with other foreigners from Mauritius and Zimbabwe. But at the end of the day, it is how one works and who the coach wants to pick for the benefit of the team,” he says.
In comparing the standard of football between Botswana and South Africa, Gabonamong said there is not much difference. He said the main difference is that South African football is professional compared to the local one. He also said many local players can make their mark in South Africa.
On the thorny issue of turning his back on the national team, Gabonamong says the issue is blown out of proportion. He said he, together with Selolwane, are ready to play for the national team because they are where they are because of the national team. He, however, says there are certain things the Botswana Football Association (BFA) needs to clear first before they could don the national colours.
“We did not just turn our backs on the national team. People need to understand that football is our livelihood, and without it, we are doomed. What if I get injured playing for the Zebras, my future is gone looking at the way things are handled currently. People must also understand I personally sacrificed a lot for the Zebras from the youth teams and I could have left it a long time ago,” he said.
Gabonamong would not say how much they want from the BFA once they turn up but said they are not demanding much from the BFA as many people perceive. He even said a compromise can even be reached on the matter. He, however, would not say whether they are engaged in negotiations with the BFA.
“Time will tell,” he said.