In the past football was akin to religion in the town of Selibe Phikwe. Most street corners, open spaces, playing grounds, were always abuzz with kids passionately playing the game.
Most of the kids wanted to see themselves playing for top teams in the future. Even schools in the mining town were dominant in regional and national competitions.
That now seems to be slowly becoming a thing of the past as football seems to be dying a slow death following the closure of the mine.
For years, the town of Selibe Phikwe was renowned as the pillar of Botswana Football. Many players who went on to become household names in the country have their roots traced to the town that was heavily reliant on copper and nickel.
The recent liquidation of the mine saw more than 5 000 workers idling on the streets and has also hit hard football in the town.
Signs are already there that if something is not done about the closure of the mine, football will also go down the drain.
Remember when Selibe had three Premier League teams – being Nico United, FC Satmos and even Mosquito. Before then there was Copper Chiefs.
That is now history as there is only one team, Nico United that is not doing well and may go down the relegation way at the end of the season.
Vultures are already reportedly hovering over the team as they want to milk it of its prized players. Selibe Phikwe used to even win football competitions from primary schools up to senior secondary schools. Primary and junior secondary schools used to dominate the then junior Chappies League while Selibe Phikwe Senior used to be untouchable, especially in Coca-Cola competitions.
Some of the best players that ended up going all the way to the senior national team from Selibe Phikwe include the likes of Sam Sono, Mooketsi “China” Mading, Mmoni “States” Segopolo, Thabo Motang, Phineas “Jiki” Maimela, Odirile Gaolebale and Mompati Thuma, just to mention a few.
Football analyst Monty Gagomokgwa decries the sooty state of Selibe Phikwe. He says Selibe Phikwe did a lot for Botswana football “and it would be sad to see such contribution just dissipating into thin air.
“When you look at where Botswana football is coming from and going, Phikwe should always be the first town to mention. Many of the best players came from that side and our so-called big teams always scrambled for players from Selibe Phikwe.
“Their scouts were always all over the town during schools competitions because they knew that there was an abundance of talent you would not find anywhere in the country,” he said.
Gagomokgwa also emphasised that most junior national teams of the country were dominated by players from Selibe Phikwe region.
The national Under-17 team that represented Botswana at the 1995 African Championships in Mali was made up of several players from Selibe Phikwe. The numbers were even more in the 1997 team that was known as Basimane Ba Kgwathe, 11 in all,” he said.
Gagomokgwa added that the passion and hunger from Selibe Phikwe should instead be built on and extend to other regions to take Botswana football even to greater heights.