There was once a debate in the country as to who, between Botswana first choice goalkeepers, Modiri Marumo and Kagiso Tshelametsi, is the better of the two. Marumo was the one who former coach, Jellusic Vesselin, preferred ahead of Tshelametsi. But many Batswana felt that Tshelametsi should be given a run ahead of Marumo. Vesselin normally responded by saying Tshelametsi was still young and had a bright future. In spite of the blunders Marumo sometimes committed, Vesselin stuck with him. Even now, the incumbent coach, Colwyn Rowe, prefers Marumo ahead of Tshelametsi.
Nevertheless, the two are still seen as the country’s leading goalkeepers, but they are not as popular as the yester year goalkeepers, like the late Sam Sono (Township Rollers), Mooketsi ‘China’ Mading (Nico United) and Thabo ‘Mahala’ Motang (Township Rollers). During the reigns of Motang and Mading, Botswana was not doing well in continental competitions and thus were dubbed the whipping boys of Africa. Conceding more than four goals while at home or abroad was the norm. Most teams, especially those from West Africa, used to score up to seven goals while Botswana scored none yet Motang and Mading still commanded fame because of their good reflexes and acrobatic skills.
Marumo is seen as someone who lacks consistency. He also loses concentration quickly, especially when playing against so-called minor teams. Some of the goals he concedes leave a lot to be desired.
Sometimes he is in fine form and saving dangerous balls but at times he is down and out and concedes easy goals. Fingers were pointed at him when Botswana was hammered 4-0 by Mauritania last year. He is also blamed for the defeat to Guinea.
Tshelametsi, on the other hand, is someone who is viewed as lacking goal line discipline. He moves from the goal posts time and again and is slow to retreat back. He is mainly vulnerable in this area at national team level, especially when playing against top African sides.
Last year, during the double qualification for both the World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations, he conceded two goals while he was off the line. When Tunisia beat Botswana 3-1 at the National Stadium, Tunisian midfielder, Mehdi Nafti, scored with a powerful shot while outside the 18 area. Before that goal, Nafti had earlier on hit the upright post with a powerful shot which Tshelametsi failed to punch away, a sign that he was also off the line. In the last game, which was against Guinea and which Botswana lost 2-1, the winning goal was scored from outside the 18 area. Guinea striker, Ousman Bangoura, realised that Tshelametsi was off the line and, instead of laying a pass, he went for the goal and his shot neatly went over Tshelametsi.
The other memorable goal Tshelametsi conceded was against Cameroon’s Under 23 team during the 40th Independence celebrations last year.
Cameroonian striker, Atangana Barnabe, took a powerful shot just near the centre line and scored the only goal of the match, after catching Tshelametsi off guard and off the line.
None of the young goalkeepers, who are seen as replacements for Tshelametsi and Marumo, has been outstanding enough to strongly challenge them.
The question is whether the current goalkeepers have what it takes.
The Botswana Football Association technical officer, Sexton Kowa, believes that current goalkeepers are not a match to the likes of Motang and Mading. But he stresses that the situation does not only relate to the goalkeepers but even to other areas like the strike force, the midfield and the defence.
“It would be unfair to compare the current crop of goalkeepers to the yester year ones. Obviously goalies like Sono, Motang and Mading were not a match compared to the current ones. Even today’s strikers are not that deadly when compared to the yester year ones,” he said.
Kowa added that yester year players played football with passion compared to the current players who are, in most cases, after money. He, however, said that the situation does not only apply to Botswana but the world at large.