A legend of the game
When local football fans are asked who the country’s greatest ever footballer is, many will respond without hesitation, Diphetogo ‘Dipsy’ Selolwane.
Certainly, the 42-year-old Gaborone native’s achievements on the footy field are rivaled by precious few.
From playing abroad for five years – in Denmark and America – to starring in South Africa for almost a decade, at club level Dipsy enjoyed a stellar career.
However, it is his exploits with the national team that the striker is best remembered for.
Having captained the Zebras to their maiden (and to date only) AFCON appearance, Dipsy forever carved his name into the annuals of history, coolly rolling home a penalty against Guinea to score Botswana’s first ever goal at the tournament.
Voice Sports Portia Mlilo sat down with the legend for a look back at his footballing career as well as his current endeavors.
Q. When did you start playing football?
As far back as I can remember.
I grew up in a family of football lovers.
My mother, Getrude Selolwane, is known as a big fan of football supporting Gaborone United.
Growing up, GU players would come to our house all the time and I was inspired.
I started playing football on the streets of Extension II in Gaborone with brothers in the hood.
I went to Benthema Primary where I played for the school team, turning out for Arm City, Liverpool and Manchester (Notwane development team) in Chappies Youth League.
I think that is where my talent was recognized.
I was called for U/17 when I was playing at Nanogang Junior School and when I was at Gaborone Senior, I played in 2nd division for Nyangabwe, who are now called UB Hawks.
Q. When did you realise that a career as a footballer was a real possibility?
When I was playing for national U/17.
During international games, we came up against youngsters who were playing professional football and I started to believe that I could also do it.
I was inspired by Aaron Mokoena of South Africa when we played against them at U/23 level.
We had a chat and he told me he was quitting his studies to move to the Netherlands.
Football in Botswana then was more of a pastime than a job.
It was inspiring to hear a youngster almost my age talking of turning professional.
Q. Of all the games you played in, which one brings back the sweetest memories?
All Zebras games I played for the country and when I was playing at SuperSport, a game against Al Ahly (Egyptian team).
I played for my country with pride and I earned my stripes as a Zebra.
I am very proud that I led the team as the captain and we qualified for the AFCON.
That was our biggest achievement as the nation.
Q. And personally, what do you regard as the greatest achievement of your career?
Honour of Meritorious Service to Botswana awarded by the former President Khama.
That’s the best time and best award ever; to be honoured by your President was huge for me!
The other achievement I would say is playing at AFCON, making the country’s maiden appearance and scoring our first ever goal.
That really means a lot to me and my nation.
Q. And on the opposite scale, what are some of the disappointments of your football career?
Quite a few to mention but they have all led me to the greatest moments of my life so I never dwell much on them.
I had applied for Botswana National Sports Council elite scholarship to study at America and also pursue my professional football career.
The process was too long, I was sent from pillar to post.
I was already admitted at the university and what was left was for BNSC to release the funds for my trip and studies.
A day before my departure I was told the right procedure was not followed and I needed to apply again.
I have never been hurt like on that day!
My family had to call an emergency meeting and managed to raise the money for my flight ticket.
I left here with US$200 (P2, 000).
When I got there I found a piece job as a Valet in a hotel and worked for a Nigerian who had a studio at the mall not far from my house trying to make ends meet.
After three months that’s when I was told BNSC had approved my scholarship.
Q. Tell us about the nickname ‘Uturn’, how did it come about?
It came after the turn and strike against South Africa in 1999 at the National Stadium.
I made a quick turn before scoring a wonder goal that marked the start of my impressive career.
It was during COSAFA Cup preliminary game and I was only 21.
I scored a brilliant goal beating the then Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana Bafana goalkeeper, Brian Baloyi.
That was impressive!
Wow, I’ll have to YouTube it!
Q. You mentioned moving to America in 2000 at the age of 22 – what stands out most in your mind about that time?
That football has opened doors for me.
It was very tough at first when I arrived because I did not have a sponsor.
I worked extra hard on the field to market myself to be signed by a professional team.
I had to quit my studies because I could not turn down Denmark, a lifetime opportunity.
I did not want to live with the ‘what if I had not gone’ question hanging over me.
Q. What was the best thing about living in America?
It was an eye opener.
There were lots of opportunities and it made me see life differently.
I would say that is where my professional career started.
They had the best facilities for my career development.
Q. You played in Denmark for a while – what was that like, both on and off the pitch?
I was there for seven months and it was a big learning experience.
The football is not the same as ours.
Q. What do you remember most about your first Zebras call-up – you were only 20 at the time!
I sat on the bench and was grateful not to make an appearance.
I scored on my debut against Lesotho in a friendly match.
Q. Having captained the national team in qualifying for AFCON 2012, you missed the first game through suspension.In the second, you scored the country’s first ever goal at the tournament – a 23rd minute penalty to equalise against Guinea. Stepping up to the spot, what was going through your mind?
The time is now. God had brought the moment to make history.
That was the most difficult and biggest task in my football career.
Q. Fast forward to today, what do you think the Zebras are struggling so much? Where are we going wrong?
The mentality and desire is not the same.
Q. Do you think Amrouche is the right man to take the national team forward?
He is a coach with a huge CV but we have to come to the party to help him move the national team forward.
It is just that the mentality and desire is not the same as ours when we qualified for AFCON.
We were playing for the nation, appearance fees were not even an issue; we were very passionate about our careers.
Q. Toughest opponent you played against?
He remains the only player that frustrated me to a point where I was given a red card.
He is very intelligent and could read my moves.
My uncle bought me soccer boots in Germany and they didn’t fit me so I gave them to him because we are friends and I always treated him like my younger brother.
When we played against Mogoditshane Fighters, he stepped on my toe to win the ball and I became so angry.
I think it’s because he did that with the boots I gave him!
I shouted at the referee for not protecting me and I was given a red card.
Q. Dipsy today v 21-year-old Dipsy: what’s the difference?
I’m a wiser man now!
Q. It is rumoured you intend to stand as a BFA National Executive Committee additional member in August’s elections. Any truth to this?
(Laughing) What would be wrong if I decided to run in BFA elections?
On a serious note I have not made up my mind but I believe it is high time footballers run football.
Q. Tell us about your football academy and what inspired you to start it?
I want to share my football knowledge and help players live their dreams in football as well as give back to the community.
We also teach them life skills because there is life after football.
They are coached by Vincent Kgaswane.
It is unfortunate that due to Covid-19 pandemic we are not training but we gave them a training programme to follow at their homes.
We will bounce back once WHO give us the green light.
I want it to be a world standard academy and produce professional footballers.
Q. And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
I will be just home with my family and my beautiful two daughters.