Just a fortnight ago, Makwengwe was dangerously skating on thin ice.
“Zac (Zakhem) must get us a better coach,” reacted one GU fan on Facebook, after The Reds suffered an energy sapping 2-0 reversal at the hands of traditional foe, Township Rollers in the first leg of the Mascom Top 8 semi final.
After his side’s insipid display, there was also focus on Makwengwe’s dress code, which forced a sports scribe to inquire about the possibility of introducing a dress code for coaches. The Botswana Premier League (BPL) chief executive officer, Thabo ‘Stiles’ Ntshinogang was in unison over the introduction of a dress code for coaches, to protect the integrity of the game.
In the first leg, Makwengwe had appeared in a casual, flappy and uninspiring t-shirt and was roundly criticised for not according the lucrative knockout tournament, the civility it deserves.
He remained tight-lipped on the dress code, but was unwaveringly defiant on throwing the towel early on the pitch. He predicted his team would score two goals and force a penalty in the return leg. “We need to score two goals and organise a penalty,” he is quoted as saying.
Last week Saturday, the air was not necessarily heavy with expectation on the red side of Gaborone, as Rollers were overwhelming favourites to proceed to yet another Top 8 final.
But Makwengwe had other ideas.
His first smart move was to take care of his wardrobe. The former Botswana Football Association (BFA) technical officer stepped out of the dugout clad in his Sunday best; a royal green suit, a matching milk white shirt and stylish multi-coloured shoes (more like Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colours).
He had silenced his fashion critics with swatting ease. “I used the first leg to study my opponents (hence the casual wear). But for the second leg, I meant business that is why I was dressed like that. Everything was new; I went to a stylist specifically for that game. You cannot lose when you are dressed like that,” Makwengwe said yesterday.
On the pitch, GU were by far the more adventurous side and should have been well and truly out of sight by the time the referee blew the whistle for full time.
But GU frontline’s profligacy delayed the inevitable. The inclusion of the ‘Spanish guitar’, Dirang Moloi in the middle of the park, meant GU were pulling the strings, as one of the country’s best ball passers was back to his devastating best. “Dirang is a very good reader of the game, and a brilliant passer of the ball. We have a good understanding since I coached him at a young age. He knows how to die for his coach, which is rare in Botswana,” Makwengwe said.
It was going to be cruel had Makwengwe failed to complete one of the greatest comebacks in the tournament’s eight-year history.
The football gods were in agreement; although under previously set precedents, Rollers were supposed to progress on away goals rules. The gods had to eject a member of the competition’s Local Organising Committee, from the terraces, to dash to the pitch and intervene after the referee had blown to signal the end of an absorbing contest, after 120 minutes.
The tournament’s rules, albeit vaguely, were on Makwengwe’s side and the match was forced into a laborious penalty shootout.
Makwengwe’s boys held their nerve as Joel Mogorosi crashed his effort against the upright to hand The Reds a deserved place in the final.
“I deliberately played Gaopatwe ‘Shoes’ Seosenyeng in midfield and shifted a midfielder (Alphonse Modisaotsile) to defence. I compacted the defence and we played football. When I play football, they can’t play. We could have wrapped up the match in regulation time,” Makwengwe said. It was a stark reminder of how unpredictable football is. Just a fortnight and 90 minutes ago, Rodolf Zapata was enjoying his crowning moment. He had taken Makwengwe to the cleaners and the blue side of Gaborone was in seventh heaven.
But last week Saturday, tables turned in stunning fashion, starting with Makwengwe’s immaculate dress sense, to an upset result on the pitch. He is now eyeing his second Mascom Top 8 gold medal to become the first local to win the competition twice.
With Makwengwe off the hook, the pressure has been transferred to Zapata’s lap.