There are no less than five recent local players nicknamed 'Shoes'. In football, just like the idiom, an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; a nickname is usually closely attached to the actions or the names of a player. But it appears 'Shoes' is increasingly becoming an exception, observes Staff Writer, MQONDISI DUBE
Most footballers’ monikers did not fall far way from the tree. Diphetogo ‘Dipsy’ Selolwane derives his nickname, Dipsy, from his first name, and Mogogi ‘Manchester’ Gabonamong, got his following a brief trial with the English Premier League giants, Manchester United.
There are varied and at times bizarre nicknames attached to soccer players. South Africa’s Jerry ‘Legs of thunder’ Sikhosana, got his nickname as a result of his fierce shots, while Zebras’ captain, Mompati ‘Legs of steel’ Thuma, due to his ‘pencil’ but firm legs.
Zimbabwe’s Peter Ndlovu attracted the nickname, ‘Nsukuzonke’ which meant ‘Every day wonder’ due to his consistent match day wonders and goals. Most of these nicknames were closely linked to the player or their actions.However, there is a nickname that has stood the test of time and is seemingly applied indiscriminately; ‘Shoes’.The origins of the nickname can be traced to neighbouring South Africa where countless players have attracted the popular moniker, presumably because of the players’ ‘dancing shoes’ when they do magic with the ball.
Probably the player who most popularised the nickname is John ‘Shoes’ Moshoeu, who became a household name for Bafana Bafana during the team’s heydays, playing from the attacking midfield position.
He had bags of skill and could tear open even stubborn defences.
There were other ‘Shoes’ before him, but Moshoeu was the most popular with the present generation.
As football is a universal sport, the nickname soon crossed the borders and has found numerous homes in the Botswana league.
There was Kenny ‘Shoes’ Ledikwe, Gobaone ‘Shoes’ Selefa, Khumo ‘Shoes’ Motlhabane, Amos ‘Shoes’ Godirwang, Gaopatwe ‘Shoes’ Seosenyeng and ‘Shoes’ Monyatsi.
Interestingly these players featured in different positions on the pitch. The expectation would be that a player nicknamed ‘Pele’ is a deadly forward, matching the great Brazilian’s attributes.
But it is not the case with ‘Shoes’.
Ledikwe was striker, then he was turned into a defender in the twilight of his career.
Selefa has largely featured as a centre back, and blossomed when at Chiefs, while Motlhabane did a tidy job while at right back for Zebras. Godirwang has been a career defensive midfielder and Seosenyeng does his duties at the centre of the defence.
Motlhabane said he got the nickname ‘Shoes’ while playing for a lower division team, Arsenal in Serowe. “We were playing in Mmutlane and I scored a header, which the supporters liked. After that they called me Shoes. I was playing as a striker then, but I was not as stylish as Moshoeu. Some said I had the looks of Shoes Moshoeu,” Motlhabane said.
The elasticity of the nickname will be tested in generations to come, but it appears it no longer carries the same meaning when it was first coined, probably in the sprawling area of Soweto in South Africa.