A dazzling winger who used to leave his opponents sprawling on the turf, Pontsho Moloi was a crowd favourite during a sparkling career, which started off at Notwane before reaching full blossom at Mochudi Centre Chiefs. But Moloi never envisaged being in charge of a top club so soon after hanging up his boots. Moloi represents a new breed of coaches tasked with powering the local game forward, writes MQONDISI DUBE
Pontsho Moloi was an epitome of dedication during a trophy-laden career. His diminutive statue belied his fiery character; which often landed him in the match officials’ black book.
But he toned down as he was handed the captaincy of a swashbuckling Mochudi Centre Chiefs side, which won four league titles between 2008 and 2015. Moloi added more maturity to his game and personality, and began to see less of the referees’ cards.
On the pitch, ‘Piro’ was an ever-present menace down the wing, dancing past both local and international opponents with ease.
He was a master of the dribble and together with his devastating brother, Dirang, they were able to unzip any stubborn defence.
He was a darling particularly amongst the Magosi faithful, and reached legendary status after he lifted four league titles.
This made him one of the most decorated local players, and he added another feather to his cap, with participation at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in 2012. This remains the Zebras’ only appearance at the finals of the continental showpiece.
Soon after he hung up his boots in 2016, Moloi was thrown into the deep and instead of sinking, he has swum in immaculate fashion.
Most coaches have found coaching in the BTC Premiership unforgiving, but incredibly, Moloi has managed to navigate his way despite his lack of experience on the bench.
During his short stint, he has obliterated some of the league’s established teams, including Township Rollers, Orapa United and Notwane.
Moloi could have probably adopted a laissez-faire attitude to his job, but a career-changing chat with history-making Zebras coach, Stan Tshosane, pushed him to a new level.
“Not at all (I did not see myself in coaching), but in hindsight, I always thought I could be a good coach. Things changed for me at the AFCON 2012 when coach Stan called me one day to his room and said to me, “Piro you know that you could make a good coach… and here I am trying to better myself into becoming a better coach, learning everyday”.
The 38-year-old admits that coaching a big club had come sooner than expected. Moloi got the first taste of the technical bench when he was appointed assistant coach at Chiefs in 2016, before moving to another crowd puller, Extension Gunners.
While the two clubs have recently documented troubles, Piro was to be thrust into a dream job when he was appointed assistant coach at a relatively richer Gaborone United (GU) in December.
His decision proved to be a masterstroke, and
“We work hard as a group, from the director who does everything for us all the way down to the kit man. We are a team, we pull together and again I have a good relationship with the boys on and off the pitch. I am one of them. It is easy to relate and it makes everything much better,” Moloi said.
He said he still has a soft spot for his former teams, Notwane and Chiefs, and cannot rule out returning to coach them some day.
“We never know where life will take you someday. Never say never,” Moloi said. While Moloi’s career has soared, his former side, Chiefs has been singing the blues, after their demotion to the First Division. Notwane, on the other hand, has shown signs of revival in recent matches.
Moloi is able to control the dressing room despite having played with some of the players.
“The mere fact that I played with some of them, and others against, while some saw me play when they were young, makes everything easy. We respect each other, and they respect me more as their leader. Some of them we hang out together, off the field. They call me Piro and I love it,” he said.
On calls to have a deliberate process to fast-track young coaches, Moloi said it has become a norm around the world. “After all, the 15 plus years that one spends in the game, is teaching and learning at the same time. But it is also important to go to school and equip yourself with modern day coaching,” he said.
The former Zebras winger has taken GU to five points behind leaders, Jwaneng Galaxy, which has made the Reds fans dream again after a barren decade.
On his future prospects, Moloi said it was ok to dream in as far as the Zebras job is concerned. Some see him as a future Zebras coach, judging by the brisk start to his career. He is undefeated since he took over from Makwengwe.
Moloi’s GU record
GU 2-0 Notwane
GU 2-0 Orapa
GU 2-0 Black Forest
GU 2-0 Miscellaneous
GU 2-1 Township Rollers
GU 0-0 Orapa United
(GU won on penalties)