Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The legend that is Morwalela ‘Pro’ Seema

In Setswana the word ‘Morwalela’ refers to a stormy weather, most likely causing damage to property and taking away lives.

Born in Mahalapye on 21 May 1949, Morwalela ‘Pro’ Seema came to be a torture to many a defender during his playing days, especially with Township Rollers and Botswana XI (now referred to as ‘The Zebras’).

Like all star footballers, Seema started playing football at primary school, graduating into the Mahalapye Queens Park Rangers ‘B’ team in 1966/67 and fast accelerating into the ‘A’ team the following year. He remembers how they used to travel to Gaborone for league matches at the national stadium, then unturffed and without many other amenities found in it today.

In 1968, in his maiden year in Rangers’ senior team, he received a surprise national team call up. Botswana XI had been invited to play the then Swaziland (now Eswatini) as part of that country’s first independence celebrations in 1968. A Botswana Football Association (BFA) official, Theo Tamocha, who was part of those delegated to prepare the team, felt the team was inadequate, especially in the striking department. He brought this concern to his then superior, Peter Mmusi (initially secretary of the Bechuanaland Union Sports Association (BUSA),before he was secretary of the BFA) drawing his attention to some powerful striker in Mahalapye plying his trade with Rangers who could address their firepower concerns. On Mmusi’s signal, Tamocha, through one Dabadaba ‘Dabs’ Sedie of Serowe, transmitted the SOS call to Seema to the effect that he was needed in Gaborone to proceed to Swaziland for a national team assignment. ‘Dabs’ then facilitated a train ticket for the striker to travel to Gaborone in time to join Minister Kebatlamang Morake to Swaziland as the team had already departed to the mountain kingdom. Minister Morake was apparently the official delegate of Botswana at the Swaziland independence celebrations. Once the train arrived at the Gaborone station in the early morning hours, Mmusi was already there waiting to welcome his priced asset, who he whisked to his house right away. Later in the day, Mmusi lent ‘Pro’ a ball so that he could go and familiarise himself with the stadium turf as he had never played on turf before. A few up and down trots coupled with some ball work completed the solo training session.

A special player he was, recruited at the last minute to solve Botswana’s scoring problems, he had the rare privilege of traveling all the way to Swaziland in a BX with a minister.  Once they arrived in Swaziland, they headed straight for Somhlolo stadium where the independence celebrations were already on motion. An escort was immediately arranged for him to be transferred to Luyengo University campus where the Botswana team was camped. The following morning, the team set off for a warm up in the morning. As training progressed, Nicholas ‘Lele’ Sebele spotted that Morwalela’s boots were as smooth as a tomato, studs completely worn out. In his element Lele asked: “Ao banna, a le raa gore number 9 ya rona ea go tshameka hela ka tamati”. By then, apart from the then prevailing resources challenge, it was late for anything to be done about it. National team coach Toro Lesego had to lend him his only pair to use for the match. Fortunately they were of the same shoe size.  

Come the match, the hosts won 3-1 with Seema scoring the only Botswana goal and another of his goals disallowed for strange reasons after he stole the ball from the goalkeeper as he was bouncing it. After the match Tamocha felt vindicated for having recommended that Seema be called to the team. This marked the beginning of ‘Prigger’s’ national team career.

Back home, he continued to play for Rangers with regular national team call ups in the rare engagements that the team found itself in. For some time since then, Botswana and Swaziland played one another in the two countries’ national days. Botswana would travel to Swaziland for a 6 September date after which, Swaziland would follow Botswana XI for a return date on 30 September.

He continued to be a menace to the opposition in Rangers’ colours until one day in 1970, in came one Mahikeng ‘States’ Kerobale, one of the most flamboyant Rollers’ supporters who later in life came to be a transport mogul. He was successful in convincing ‘Pro’ to leave ‘Basadi ba Merapelo’ (Mahalapye Queens Park Rangers) for Rollers and later that day, they boarded a train back to Gaborone.  

A goal glutton he is, he banged in goals for both Rollers and Botswana XI at will, either from the right flank or from his then favourite centre forward position.  He took goal scoring as his responsibility and, in his own words, he felt insulted whenever a defender scored because, to him, this was a vote of no confidence on them as strikers.

Apart from the regular games with Swaziland on independence days of the two countries, ‘Prigger’ recalls other matches played with Lesotho and Malawi. In 1976 as part of Botswana’s 10th anniversary celebrations, Botswana dated Zambia, then popularly known as ‘KK XI’, after the then president of Zambia Kenneth Kaunda. Legend has it that Kaunda was so much in love with the team to a point where he would personally intervene if anything was amiss with it. Stories are told of a nearly aborted KK XI trip where Zambia’s Kaizer Kalambo was not in the flight because he was going to miss out on promotions at his work place if he travelled with the team. It is suggested that Kaunda ordered the immediate release of Kalambo on promotion. It was only on Kalambo’s boarding the flight that the team agreed to travel.

Zambia was so much of a force in the region that Botswana XI needed a good friendly to prepare for the 10th anniversary match. Malawi was identified for the friendly in a relationship that was to continue till today.

Come the big day Zambia, then featuring Kalambo, the great Bernard ‘Ace’ Chanda, Moses Simwala, Alex Chola and Ackim Musenge among others beat Botswana XI 3-2 in a match in which Morwalela opened the scoring for the hosts with Boyce Moffatt scoring the other goal.

Morwalela recalls how he used to outrun others at school, joking that if now was then, he would have made a living from sprinting. His speed was no doubt his strength, outrunning even the fastest of the sprinters of the game then. He still recalls how he outran Maletamotse’s Johnson ‘Judah’ Phiri the whole afternoon at the Botshabelo grounds (then Rollers’ home ground) in the late 70s in a match in which Rollers dispensed with the then Lobatse giants 4-0, with him (‘Prigger’) running away with yet another hat trick.

He recalls the 1974 match between Botswana, then coached by Thomas ‘Zero’Johnson, and Swaziland away at Somhlolo stadium as his best in national colours; a match that Botswana won 4-3 with him claiming a brace (other goals by Willie Dennison and the other by Wonder Tlape) and two goals disallowed. He recalls how the Swatis were having problems dealing with his speed in what the home supporters christened him ‘Sprinter No 9’, joking that he comes from the desert where he developed his speed from chasing after wild animals. With Rollers, he is unable to single out any match as his best, particularly that he was banging them in in almost every match, whether Rollers wins or not. He however agonises over Newman Motsepe’s injury that cost them a match against Notwane in the 1974 Trade Fair final, where Rollers was leading 4-0 until 25 minutes to go, only for Notwane to benefit from substitute goalkeeper Alfred ‘Danger’ Gaobotswe, banging in 5 quick goals to win the match 5-4. He further agonises on the 4-7 1975 Trade Fair loss to William ‘Pitla-Pitla’ Seboni’s Gaborone United, where the scoring efforts of Sekopo ‘Torpedo’ Tladi, Clement ‘Muller’ Mothelesi and himself were thwarted by the sizzling GU with Horatio ‘Chippa’ Mahloane scoring a brace and Goli ‘Director’ Tibone, Reuben ‘Rhoo’ Mgadla, Thomas Zero Johnson, Lele Sebele (penalty) and Boniface ‘Wonder’ Tlape each putting one past Sisco Manyeula in Rollers’ goal.

Although he had his way around most local defenders, he singles out GU’s defence of Geoffrey ‘5-5’ Nfila, Churchill Gape and Michael ‘Brixton’ Dintwe as the most stubborn to negotiate. He particularly recalls Nfila’s towering and intimidating figure. He also recalls brothers Ribbo and Dollars in the Tafa defence who would rough him up to try elsewhere. On hind sight, he jokes that “they were only doing their job, for any slip, they knew that they would be heavily punished”.

On his trademark bandage on his right wrist, ‘Prigger’ blames it on a tackle from GU’s Dintwe at the Prisons grounds that left him with an injury that was not easy to heal. He thus needed the bandage for protection. He jokingly recalls that he shared this trademark with the stylish and bearded Victor ‘Two Minutes’ Kowa of Mochudi Centre Chiefs.

He rates Gaborone United’s Benjamin ‘Steering’ Segale as the most difficult to beat between the sticks.

Although he has played under many coaches at both Rollers and the national team he, like many national team players of those years, enjoyed his football more under Thomas ‘Zero’ Johnson. Ironically, Johnson’s main engagement was with GU, Rollers’ main arch rivals.

Although he won several awards as a sprinter at school, he particularly values his honours as the top goal scorer in football, an award he received several times for his goal scoring exploits. He jokes about how rich he would have been had he played in the current times where awardees are handsomely rewarded.  

Morwalela remains passionate about Rollers, who he still follows for matches around the country when he has time. Once he had retired from active playing in 1984, he played Sunday football for Gaborone Club, until he felt his legs could not carry him anymore. On the work front, he joined the post office at the end of his studies at Mahalapye secondary, where he was one of the first graduates of the school. He then spent the rest of his work live with Kgalagadi Breweries, where he worked for 22 years.

Since retirement, ‘Pro’ has settled in Mmanoko in the Kweneng district. He is a family man and a grandfather, with one of his children a successful business running Seema Tankers.

He speaks with greatest nostalgia of his Rollers teammates over the years that made Township Rollers the feared team it was (and of course still is). He particularly singles out Sliding Matsila with whom he is still friends, Rex ‘True Form’ Morakaladi, the Modise brothers Sedie ‘States Express’, Freddie and Modise  and Mochuu ‘City’ Manyelela. He jokingly recalls how Freddie Modise was difficult to understand and how he (Modise) would even refuse a photograph been taken of him. He also recalls Manyelela as one of the longest serving goalkeepers at Rollers, having joined from BMC of Lobatse in the late 70s. He recalls how, once he (Manyelela) had settled at Rollers he mutilated BMC further by recruiting their most valuable asset of then in striker Torpedo Pheko who joined another ‘Torpedo’ at Rollers in Sekopo Tladi.

To demonstrate his commitment to Rollers even to date, he still proudly parades the club’s regalia, especially when he attends the club’s matches, and proudly poses for any Rollers-related photos in it.

Morwalela ‘Pro’ Seema remains one of the most feared strikers ever to trot into the local football pitches. The goal-glutton par excellence who many goalkeepers never looked forward to playing against. King Kaizer.

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