For many years, Selibe-Phikwe town was known as the center of the cream of Botswana soccer.
Many excellent footballers in most of the Premier League teams were discovered and nurtured in the copper mining town.
What was even more evident was the fact that the schools from the town always performed well in regional and national competitions.
In the 90s, Selibe Phikwe Senior Secondary was untouchable in BISA championships. It was either Selibe Phikwe Senior Secondary was the champions or, at least, the finalists.
Junior secondary schools like Makhubu, Lebogang, Meepong were a thorn in the flesh for most schools in the country. Their feeders were primary schools like Boswelakgomo and Phikwe, who were also terrorising other schools in junior competitions, like the Chappies Leagues.
Nowadays, Selibe Phikwe schools are eclipsed by those in and around Gaborone and are just shadows of their former selves.
Many people are wondering what is really happening to Selibe-Phikwe. Renowned players from Selibe-Phikwe are the likes of Mooketsi ‘China’ Mmoni ‘States’ Segopolo, Thabo Motang, Odirile Gaolebale, Phineas ‘Jiki’ Maimela, Mompati Thuma and Tiroyamodimo ‘TRX’ Mohambi.
All the players had a taste for the senior national team while others, like Thuma, are still in the team.
Other renowned players from Phikwe were Bashin Mashakola, Derrick ‘Bhaamjee’ Malunga, Abueng “Stone’ Dijogadifele.
Currently, not many players from the mining town make to teams in the Premier League as was the case before. The tide started to change way back in 1999 when Selibe-Phikwe Senior Secondary School started being knocked out in the early stages of BISA competitions.
Southern region schools are now in dominance and the likes of Naledi, Ledumang, Gaborone and Moshupa are calling the shots.
It is a worrying trend in the sense that the golden football fruit that used to be enjoyed seems to be fading from Selibe-Phikwe by the day.
At some stage, the town boasted of three Premier League teams and currently there is only one, Nico United, which seems to be fighting relegation season after season.
The technical development officer of the Botswana Football Association, Philemon Makgwengwe, is a sad man, saying more needs to be done.
“We all know what the town of Selibe-Phikwe has done to the development of football in this country. It has produced players that are still doing a lot for the country. We want to see more of those players. It’s painful to see a town that used to be the cream of Botswana dying a slow death,” he said. Makgwengwe stressed that on their part as the BFA, they are doing all what they can but the main challenge is support from Selibe Phikwe community.
“We have trained many coaches in Selibe-Phikwe and we continue to do so. There are more than 70 of them who are mainly school teachers and we expect them to impart that knowledge to the youngsters, but that seems not to be happening. There is little support nowadays from influential people in the area and I once took the issue up with one of the legislators in the area,” he said.
Makgwenge added that many players who came from Selibe-Phikwe, like the late Sam Sono, were the driving forces in local football.
“It is unfortunate, Sono left us when he was still needed the most and it appears nobody has comfortably filled his boots. He was a national team player and even coached some national junior teams and had a team in the Premier League. He sacrificed his time not only nurturing players for his team but for the whole region that include other areas like Bobirwa and Mmadinare. If there can be someone with Sono’s passion for soccer in the area, it would be good,” he said.
Makgwengwe lamented that it is not only Selibe-Phikwe that is having serious problems, adding that other areas of concern are Kgalagadi and Chobe.
He said the areas could prove to be invaluable for the development of soccer for Botswana in the long run.
Makgwengwe also said the main contributors to this sad state of affairs are the Premier League teams themselves. He said teams should adopt a strategy whereby they work hand in hand with certain schools to speed up development. He said that could attract more students, who were previously not interested in soccer.