Ten years after the infamous “A Basimane ba kgwathe” nightmare, Botswana football fans finally had a dream in 2007 when the national Under-23 side registered some giants killing victories. The Monitor Staff Writer, Boitumelo Khutsafalo looks back at what was arguably the country’s crème de la crème
For many years, Botswana’s national football sides suffered humiliating defeats in every competition they partook in. It did not matter whether they played at home or away, earning themselves the nickname, Whipping Boys of Africa.
However towards the year 2006, a group of young talented players came up the ranks and quickly shrugged off the Whipping Boys of Africa tagline. The then national Under-23 coach, the late Banks Panene assembled a team that took part in the qualifiers for the 2008 Olympic games. Before he could realise his dream, Panene met his untimely death and was replaced by David Bright.
The crop of players that qualified to be in that team at the time turned out to be what the country had been wishing for. The abundance of talent in the team soon attracted ‘The Dream team’ nickname and under the guidance of Bright, the team went onto to live up to expectations despite missing out on the Olympic qualification by a whisker.
They became the first local Under-23 side to reach the group stages of the Olympic qualifiers before they were beaten to the first position by Cameroon. Along the way, Bright’s side defeated the likes of Guinea, Tunisia and Morocco, something that looked unattainable by the Botswana’s national teams before then.
Ahead of the qualifiers, Bright and his technical team assembled a pool of players where every position on the field boasted of at least three equally gifted talent. The team went onto to finish second at the Eight Nations tournament in South Africa, beating the likes of Ghana and Cameroon along the way. They also went onto to win the Four Nations tournament before they missed out on the Olympic qualification.
The abundance of talent at the Dream Team later created animosity between the senior national team selectors and the national Under-23 technical team. The national team coach at the time, Colwyn Rowe included some of the players in his side such like Jerome Ramatlhakwana, Moemedi Moatlhaping and Dirang Moloi. The arrangement created tension between the two camps as the Under-23 side missed some of the players for crucial matches since they were included in the senior team. Many at the time believed the Dream Team had a very good chance to qualify for the Olympics had the squad not been tampered with. Some of the players returned for the Morocco clash that the Dream Team won but that was not enough since Cameroon also won its last match.
Later on, some of the players secured dream moves to South Africa including Moatlhaping, Noah Maposa, Dirang Moloi, Phenyo Mongala and Jerome Ramatlhakwana. However, there is a belief that had Botswana football been exposed well enough at the time, more than half of the team would have moved abroad.
In the goalkeeping department, Noah Maposa remained the trusted man in between the sticks for most of the matches. His form at Mochudi Centre Chiefs earned him the number one
He partnered with hard tackling Moreetsi Mosimanyana at the heart of the defence and at times played alongside Gobonyeone Selefa who was also doing well at Chiefs at the time as well as hard tackling Tumisang Sekanonyane. Selefa also played in front of the defence in some games. Gabriel Bokhutlo made the right back position his although he faced competition from Thabo Mbole who at the time played for Notwane while Boniface Makolo and Ramohibidu gave coaches selection headaches at the left back position.
Makolo’s career was cut short by nagging injuries before he could break into the senior national team. Ramohibidu on the other hand progressed and stamped his authority at the Zebras years later. His memorable match at the Dream Team was against Morocco where he scored a brilliant goal in the first half courtesy of Moloi’s assist. Moloi also set up Moatlhaping for the second goal in the second half. Ramohibidu went on to become Zebras’ first choice left back at the 2012 AFCON finals. He was unfortunately involved in a terrible accident years later leading to a forced retirement. At the time he was playing for FC Satmos. Besides Makolo and Ramohibidu, Bright and his bench also had Bashin Modisaotsile at their disposal.
The central midfield position was a battleground for the starting line ups with an avalanche of talent that included Moloi, Amos Godirwang, Kemmy Pilato, Jackie Mothatego as well as Lesego Molemogi. In most cases Godirwang got the nod ahead of equally gifted defensive midfielders among them Kemmy Pilato, Elijah Phiriepa, Bobo Motlhalane and Alphonse Modisaotsile. Moloi was the creative genius in the middle of the park while Mongala, Betsho Pius, Thebe Maiketso and Kaone Molefe added speed on the wings. When the Zebras made history by qualifying for their first Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) later on, several names from the Dream Team formed part of that history. Ramatlhakwana, Moatlhaping, Twizer Ramohibidu, Musa Ohilwe, Noah Maposa and Mongala all booked a ticket to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in 2012.
Goalkeepers: Maposa, Itumeleng Selapa, Mompoloki Sephekolo
Defenders: Ohilwe, Moreetsi Mosimanyana, Gobonyeone Selefa, Sekanonyane, Gabriel Bokhutlo, Twizer Ramohibidu, Boitumelo Modisaotsile, Thabo Mbole, Keabetswe Jenamiso, Godiragetse Mecunyane, Boniface Makolo
Midfielders: Amos Godirwang, Jackie Mothatego, Bobo Motlhalane, Lesego Molemogi, Dirang Moloi, Alphonse Modisaotsile, Elijah Phiriepha, Phenyo Mongala, Kaone Molefe, Betsho Pius, Thebe Maiketso, Kemmy Pilato, Molatedi Mabina
Strikers: Moemedi Moatlhaping, Ramatlhakwana, Kekaetswe Moloi, Tebogo Sembowa