Sunday, September 27, 2020

The young men who are filling their fathers’ boots

In Botswana, it is rare to find the offsprings of yesteryear soccer stars following in their fathers’ footsteps. Only a few have done that and they are excelling.

The current known player who is filling his father’s boots very well is Township Rollers speedy striker, Kaone Molefhe. Kaone’s father, Desmond, once played for Rollers and the national team for a long time. Desmond was a speedy left-winger who was always hungry for goals. He gave defenders a torrid time.

When his son Kaone came into the limelight last year, many people doubted whether he would match his father. Kaone is now fast proving that he is going to be even better than his father. He also has pace and even appears to be more skillful than his father was. It is not surprising for him to be in the national under 20.

Another yesteryear soccer star who is being emulated by his son is former Tafic goalkeeper, Wrist Mmusi. Mmusi is regarded by many soccer gurus, as one of the best goalkeepers the Francistown-based side, Tafic, has ever produced.

What made Mmusi a unique character was the fact that he was physically challenged, but he did not let that deter him. During his days, Tafic represented Botswana in the African continental competitions, which was quite an achievement for a Francistown team.

Mmusi was renowned for always organising his defence well and barking out orders to his defenders. Since Mmusi retired from football, Tafic has never been the same again. They were even condemned to the lower division at one stage, and only managed to bounce back last season.

All the time when Mmusi was sweating it out at Tafic, little did he know that his son, Mompoloki Sephekolo, would also be a goalkeeper. Sephekolo currently plies his trade at Premier League pace setters, Notwane. Sephekolo, who also doubles up by donning the national under 20 jersey, has proved that he has what it takes to be even better than his father. He only joined Notwane this season, but managed to get first team action ahead of seasoned goalkeepers.

Sephekolo, however, says he got into the goalkeeping department by chance because he preferred playing as a midfielder, a position he says he marshaled with dignity while at primary school.

Since everybody, including his coach at Junior secondary in Francistown, knew that his father was a top goalkeeper, one day he was asked to man the posts. Since then he has never thought of going back to his initial position.

“I preferred playing behind the strikers while at primary school, but when I stepped between the goalposts, I realised that I have what it takes to be a good goalkeeper. I played extremely well in most of the games and ended up being selected for the zonal games. National under 20 selectors spotted me while sweating it out in the zonal games,” he said.

A first year Physical Education student at the University of Botswana, Sephekolo vows to uphold further his father’s legacy. He says his father did not have a chance to play for the national team, despite being regarded as one of the best goalkeepers this country has ever produced.

“My father was one of the best goalkeepers in this country. But he was unfortunate not to make it to the national team. Currently I play for the under 20 and it is a boast to me, and even to him. I intend to fight all the way to the national team which I think is possible if I can concentrate enough,” he says.

Nineteen-year old Sephokolo also dreams of becoming a professional goalkeeper one day. He says if the opportunity could present itself, he would put his studies on hold because professionalism is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

At Notwane, Sephekolo has surprised many people. Only a few months after joining the club, he won first team action ahead of four excellent goalkeepers. In the last few games he played, he performed beyond many people’s expectations. He has good reflexes, good positioning and it is not easy to beat him on shot stop balls or in one on one situations.

“Currently at Notwane there are five good registered goalkeepers, including Kagiso Tshelametsi who plays for the national team. I also somehow consider myself lucky because Tshelametsi is currently nursing an injury and I am competing against the other three. Also at the end of the day the coach is the one who selects his best team,” he said.

Many people saw his move to Notwane as suicidal because it is a star-studded side, while he is just an up and coming player. Sephekolo, however, is unfazed; he says he joined Notwane so that he could learn a lot from experienced goalkeepers like Tshelametsi. He also adds that he is not in a hurry to be always the first choice goalkeeper because age is still on his side.

The Under 20s are currently training in preparation for the Council for Southern African Football Association tournament. Botswana always bows out in the preliminary stages of the tournament but this time around Sephekolo believes they would go beyond that.

“We have been together for quite some time now, and close to half of the team plays for the elite league. I believe we will not be there as participants, but as strong competitors,” he said.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.