Mosimanegape ‘Twizer’ Ramohibidu was part of the Botswana’s football history when he represented the country at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Gabon. That was the first and only Zebras appearance at the continental showpiece thus far. But Ramohibidu’s life took a heart-wrenching turn in 2015, and things have never been the same for him, writes MQONDISI DUBE
A star defender, who spent countless minutes manning the left side of the pitch, now finds himself in a near vegetative state. The energetic runs are gone, and have been replaced with the constant use of hands to push his new set of legs to take him from one point to the other.
‘Twizer’s life has changed.
During his hey days, he was not necessarily a fan favourite, but stuck to his duties in a diligent manner. Twizer was part of the history making squad, the ‘Class of 2012’ that flew out to join the continent’s finest soccer teams at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Gabon.
Botswana had toiled on countless occasions in a bid to win a place at the AFCON finals, but it usually ended in tears, ultimately earning the national team, the ‘Whipping Boys’ tag.
But Twizer and his group, connived to ensure Botswana finally finds her place in the sun. It was a glorious moment that united the blue, black and white nation.
Fans drowned in euphoria as the Botswana national anthem was played at the AFCON finals for the first time.
It was a collective effort of a special group of players, and technical team led by Stan Tshosane. Ramohibidu had managed to keep his place in the team despite rising calls to give the likes of Edwin Olerile a chance. He had his best game at the finals, playing a blinder against Ghana, in a game, which the Zebras lost 1-0. His left foot was unerring for the large parts of the 90minutes, and the diminutive defender made dangerous forays into enemy territory.
From the AFCON finals, the bulk of the aging Zebras team was never retained after a disastrous campaign in 2013. Twizer was one of those who had their last dance with the national team, as Tshosane was axed as well.
Ramohibidu left his club, BMC after a lengthy service to Ezenkomo, for FC Satmos shortly after. He had a job at BCL Mine, as he prepared for a dignified exit from a game that had seen him represent the nation at almost all age levels.
But there was to be a chilling twist to what had been a satisfying journey for Ramohibidu.
In the cold early hours of June 29, 2015, Twizer’s life took a wrong turn.
It was just 14 days after he celebrated his 30th birthday. As he was approaching Mahalapye driving to Selebi-Phikwe from Digawana at around 5am, his car hit a pothole, and his car veered off the road resulting in serious spinal cord injuries.
“It’s not a situation I am used to. It is an injury classified as level six, which is a serious injury. There are 50-50 chances that I will walk again in life,” the wheel chair-bound Ramohibidu said.
He said the challenge is
“You find that I don’t have a proper place where I can bath. The way it’s built, it’s not ideal for my condition. At the moment, I rely on people to assist me (to bath). It is a big struggle,” he said.
The former BMC defender said he spends most of the time at home, although he, at times uses his wheelchair to move around the village.
He has a poultry project, which has kept him going, after schools within the village asked him to supply them with eggs.
Ramohibidu was also in the process of completing his house, just a stone’s throw away from his parents’ home, but the accident put an end to his project. Reflecting on his playing days, particularly the success of the Zebras, Twizer said they played as a unit.
“We were one family, that’s why we succeeded. But I become emotional when I think of what I was capable of doing, and what I have become,” he said. The 35-year-old said during his playing days, he was aware that some people wanted Tshosane to replace him with certain players, but that did not dent his determination.
Ramohibidu singles out the away game against Tunisia in 2008, as his best.
“No one gave us a chance and we played well away from home.” The Zebras won 1-0 to register a shock result, and launch what was to be a successful AFCON campaign.
At the height of his career, he remembers that his highest salary at BMC was around P7,500 while at the national team was around P25,000 as an allowance from the government after the team qualified for the AFCON finals.
Ramohibidu has a 12-year-old boy, doing Standard 7, but he doesn’t want to influence him to play football.
“I told him to choose what is best for him, but I tell him to concentrate on his education,” said Ramohibidu, who still spots a dreadlock.
He believes that money issues are holding back local football’s progress. He argues, players are not motivated enough.
The player is in constant touch with most of his Zebras teammates, and is happy that the Botswana Football Association (BFA) president, Maclean Letshwiti and the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, recently paid him a visit.
Ramohibidu said he frequently talks to Malepa ‘Chippa’ Bolelang, who suffered misfortune as he had his leg amputated recently after a car ploughed into the former ECCO City Greens marksman. He said what was key was for Batswana to keep in frequent touch and not to abandon them.
Full Names: Mosimanegape Ramohibidu
Date of birth: 15.06.1985
Place of birth: Lobatse
Teams: BMC, BDF XI, FC Satmos
Caps: Under-17 (9), Under-20 (15),
Under-23 (16), Zebras (28)