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Rest Rooi, rest Lobatse, rest champion...

CORRESPONDENT
My relationship with Clifford Mogomotsi was an honest one. This was unlike your typical football administrators who faked their emotions whilst they mocked you under the cover of darkness.

Cliff did not know how to pretend. He did not carry the burden of pretence. He was a free spirit who preferred to tackle issues head on, right or wrong, based on a principle and the conviction that his position was the right one, and therefore he will defend it with all that he has.

Like everyone else I was shocked and saddened by his untimely passing. A mutual friend waked me up in the wee hours to break the sad news to me. I needed time to process this loss and what it means to the beautiful game.

I’m hear to pay tribute to three unique qualities that Cliff has that were unapologetically unprecedented and unsurpassed:

1. People associate Mochudi Centre Chiefs with the striped black and white shirt, but don’t know its origin. When Cliff was studying in the UK, he mobilised a group of Chiefs supporters abroad to sponsor a kit for Chiefs, moulded along the lines of his beloved Newcastle. Cliff being the aggressive negotiator he was able to persuade them to provide a kit for Chiefs for free, from the UK, every season, for the duration of his studies. Later, current committee member, Ridwell Mfolwe took over that mantel when he went to study abroad. That is the true story of how Chiefs got its stripes.

2. Cliff was the only Club official that I ever encountered, who travelled for all his club’s away matches, both local and abroad, without fail.

3. During my time at the Botswana Premier League (BPL), a conspicuous analogy was created whereby, certain football heavyweights began to refer to me as ‘Kabila’. It was Cliff who came up with this name and it surreptitiously spread, but to this day Clifford Mogomotsi was the only person who called me by that name to my face. Ba bangwe botlhe, baa seba. I retaliated by calling him ‘Rooi’ and ‘Lobatse’.

The true origin of these names shall remain a mystery for those who never ventured into our space. That was a sacred space of brutal honesty, debates, fights, humour, celebration and introspection. I’m not qualified to attempt to venture into this sacred terrain. It is

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a terrain that made football what it was; epic and dramatic.

Cliff did not know how to pretend. He called a spade-a-spade, and was never apologetic about it.Three examples immediately come to mind:

1. He loved the finer things in life - when he concluded the deal with Kappa, he demanded that they design special shirts exclusively for him. I know because I helped him on that deal.

2. He was not one to make a point silently. In Francistown, before their Mascom Top 8 match when they were preparing to lodge the ‘Nato protest’ in the morning, he came to my room at Thapama Hotel, knocked, and when I opened he barged in, made himself tea, and said: “Monna Kabila, I hope go re you brought a nice suit. Nna le wena, we are going to do drama today. Ke a protesta today (raising the protest notice). Le gontso (cash) e teng....thanya pelo morena, this is football and we are not a small team.” That was Cliff. In my hotel room, at 05h30 in the morning, drinking tea; only he could do that.

3. Cliff only wanted the best. Whenever there was a high profile match involving Chiefs that was not activated, he would barge into my office, unannounced, and say: “Kabila, ayekake. O a tlaila jaanong. This is a big game, we need razzmatazz and fireworks. Don’t devalue the product.”

That was Cliff. After a tense encounter like a bruising Disciplinary Committee hearing, he would call the following day and say, “Kabila, o gonyetse....hhhhhhmmmmm.” Those who truly knew him, would understand what I’m saying.

We lived, we celebrated, we prayed, we fought with integrity and honesty. That is what I respect the most about this man. He was not some faceless coward, but a driven pioneer who was not about to contemplate his principles, and all that he stood for.

Despite all this energy, all this fight, all this passion, all this aggression, all this drive, Cliff was a gentle soul who would never hurt a fly.

Rest Rooi. Go ruffle some feathers in heaven because that is what you do best and heaven is where you belong!

BENNETT MAMELODI



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