Gone are the days when foreign players, especially strikers, were the toast of the elite league. Local strikers are making their mark season after season, as is the case in the ongoing Mascom Premier League. The first round of the Mascom League has already passed the half way mark and foreign strikers are being out classes by local lads.
In the past, especially in the mid-eighties and nineties, a team that did not have a foreign striker was deemed to be performing below par. That, however, was real in the sense that all the teams that were in dominance had deadly foreign strikers. The famous one, who is still on the lips of many Batswana, was the late Township Rollers striker, Joseph ‘Big Joe’ Chikoti. Each team that faced Rollers knew that Chikoti was bad news for them.
Zambian born Chikoti had a sharp eye for goal and was a terror even to the most well drilled defences. He was deadly with his darting runs and always found a way of eluding the defenders.
Chikoti contributed immensely to Rollers success from 1993 to 1996. He was the driving force when Rollers won the lucrative Coca Cola Cup three times in four years plus the league. In his playing days, Rollers won the Coca Cola Cup in 1993, 94, 96 and the league in 1995.
On the other hand, when the Lobatse outfit, Lobtrans Gunners, reigned supreme by winning the league three years in succession, in 1992, 93 and 94, they had some agile strikers. The renowned ones were Francis Chisenga, Edison Mulubwa and Kennedy ‘Computer’ Jerry. The trio scored in almost every game they featured.
Francistown-based side Tasc was not left behind when it came to deadly foreign strikers.
They had Langson Phiri, who only retired last season after playing for more than ten years. BDF XI had Abraham Mubanga while Gaborone United had Mandla Balanda.
To date, the Premier League is yet to find a foreign striker who resembled that terrible legion.
Many foreigners that came after them did not last because they could not make any meaningful impact. Even those who were well decorated in their native countries found themselves second best to the locals.
Currently, most teams do not have foreign strikers, but the few that are available are not making any noticeable contribution compared to the locals. The leading goal scorers in the Mascom League are the locals. The only foreign striker who comes near is Nicholas Gora of Tafic.
Much talked about strikers, like Bernard Simakwezi of BDF XI, Richard Mwanza of Police XI, are way behind. The current scenario might resemble that of last season when locals were also unstoppable throughout the season.
Mochudi Centre Chiefs coach, Daniel Nare, lamented current foreigners flooding the local Premier League. He said most of them are not good enough to compete with the locals. Maverick Nare conceded that quality foreign strikers are the ones that are needed in the country.
“We need foreign players just like other countries. But they must be quality so that locals can learn something from them. The current crop of foreign strikers we have now leaves a lot to be desired compared to the ones we had about fifteen years ago. Those guys like Chikoti and Chisenga were a cut above the rest, which is why they were dominating local soccer. We are yet to find a striker who is like them,” he said.
On whether local dominance is a sign that local football is growing, Nare disagreed. He said since sports is commercialised, many quality foreigners head to money spinning leagues. Nare also said since strikers are in demand, Botswana teams do not have enough money to lure good ones. Nare, who once played for the Zebras, stressed that the local game was growing at a snail’s pace and a lot still needed to be done for local strikers to vigorously compete internationally.