Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Will the class of 1986 ever the matched?

While the Botswana Football Association has always staged friendly games for the Zebras during

celebrations, many are of the opinion that the Zebras that played during the 20th anniversary in 1986 are by far the best. CHRIS LEPENGA remembers the classy side that left multitudes
salivating with envy.

The Zebras teams that have participated on Botswana’s historic day, September 30, have always notched up more victories than losses. The 1986 team is viewed by many as the best Zebras team.

Said Papi Sono of Selebi-Phikwe, “That team could have been nurtured. Only if we had a ministry of sports, we could have built on that team. Those Zebras were simply classy; they played football the Brazilian way.”

The 1986 team was coached by Peter Cormack and managed by the late Willie Seboni. The team really oozed with class and confidence.

Twenty players trotted onto the field on that day. They wore brand new light blue tracksuit tops with a nice label “20”, signifying the twenty years of independence. Leading the team was Seboni, in a black suit and dark brown hat. The sun was scorching that day but multitudes of Batswana were not to be discouraged as they thronged the national stadium.

The Malawian team was awesome, with the likes of John Phiri and Lawrence Waya in fine form.

In goals for the Zebras team was current FC Satmos coach, Mooketsi “China” Mading, whom some believe could have made it to any team overseas.
Said Buti Tawele of Granada Wanderers in Selebi-Phikwe, “Mading’s talent was natural. You could no teach him anything. He was even better than the current European goalkeepers featuring for big teams, a good shot stopper and even better at cutting crosses.”

Bobonong-born Batsile “Micro” Makubate who played for BDF XI deputized Mading. At right back was Gaborone United’s David “Defaulter” Ntebela. His timing was spot-on. He could not trip an opponent but would always win the ball.

Botinki “Chippa” Williams of Mahalapye Queen’s Park Rangers operated at left back. The Centre halves were the ever dependable pair of Walker “Rambo” Rathedi and the late Rodgers “Director” Chikumbudzi. Rathedi played for Notwane while the Mapoka-born Chikumbudzi played for BDF XI.
On the bench sat a youthful Terrence Mophuting and Rammala “Ryder” Segobye and Michael “Hailey’s comet” Molefhe.

The Zebras engine room was perhaps the most colourful department. There was the ever green Oris “Boyo” Radipotsane of Township Rollers, Davis “Mgababa” Chepete of Gaborone United, Lastin “Matoni” Mzila on the right and Shadrack “Rio” Maswabi on the left. As the midfield took time to adapt to the physic of the Malawian players, Cormack brought in the late Nobody “Jomo” Mosweu of Tafic to try to stabilize things. That was to be the turning point of the match as the Zebras took the game to the Malawians.

With his ferocious shots, Maswabi was a menace to the Malawian keeper in the opening stanza. Thrice he nearly scored directly from corner kicks. Mzila was sublime with his dribbling. His crosses were initially a letdown but as the game progressed he settled well to play a game of his life.

Upfront, Cormack depended on the hard shooting qualities of Gaborone United’s Matlhogonolo “Paymaster” Dintwa and Mothusi “Killer” Kooitsiwe of the then Wharic Centre Chiefs.

Early in the second half, the Zebras introduced Tafic’s dribbling wizard, Cornelius “Matoni” Mudzingwa. He was deployed at the left flank where he gave the Malawian right back a torrid time. He combined well with Kooitsiwe to set the opener for the Zebras through Mzila.

Then there was that dribbling wizard who could turn any defender into a laughing stock through his trickery and fancy footworkÔÇö Peter “Vula Vala” Mabile. It was like someone had just poured petrol into fire as the Zebras lifted their game. (On a Zebra poster appearing in the BFA book launched recently, Mabile is erroneously identified as Richard Kgathi.

Kgathi was also a good player who made the other Zebras team comprising among others, Thabo Motang, OG Godirwang, the late Mmoloki Ramanoko, Nobody Mosweu and Matshidiso “Teenage” Gosenyang.)

Mudzingwa finished of the game after a solo effort having left four Malawian defenders in his wake before pushing the ball beneath a helpless Malawian goalkeeper.

Perhaps what made that team special was the quality of players they had. A close look at their bench was to reveal talented players like Gaborone United’s Kabo “Wiseman” Lesole, Mophuting, Louis “Teenage” Tlhowe.

The question is: which Zebras will claim the scalps of their opponents in an enterprising manner on Botswana’s most important day.

Well, Zebras team that squared up against the Taifa Stars of Tanzania in1987 was not bad. We remember that day when Notwane’s Ngwaele “Malombo” Thari controlled that midfield like an army general. If the 1987 game was a fair affair, then the 1988 encounter against the Warriors of Zimbabwe was even better.

This was Mmoloki “BB” Sechele’ day. The Tafic maestro tormented the likes of Ephraim Chawanda the whole afternoon, scoring the all-important winner against Japhet Mparutsa in the Warriors goals. But this was a far cry from the class of 1986.


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