Popular sports commentator, Nelson Ditibane is a larger than life personality who commands attention.
Better known by his showbiz nickname, Manelo, the Ramotswa born wordsmith has the seemingly effortless ability to play around with words.
Famous for his on air humour, Manelo’s colourful commentary adds an extra layer to the beautiful game and brings those watching at home closer to the action.
Indeed, for many, he is the voice of football.
How did you get into commentating?
I became a commentator I think through circumstances.
I grew up surrounded by people who had the gift of the gab, the likes of Dipheko Motube.
I was also a football player and could relate to the game.
I did commentary during school sports and people loved it.
They would gather to hear me play with words during the games.
Besides football, you cover a wide variety of other sports and seem to have an in-depth knowledge of all. How do you do it?
I was able to play volleyball, softball, football and I was good across all these sporting codes while I was at Madiba Senior.
I had knowledge of different codes so I could easily fit in, which is why I do commentary in many codes.
For you to be able to do it, you need to know the sport deeply, understand how it flows, the rules and the regulations.
That allows you to bring certain elements to the game when doing commentary.
Even when I am home, I do not only watch football, I love sport generally and watch all games.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
You get to be where the action is, watching it live.
You feel it and that is how you are able to describe it to the viewers at home.
You analyse, look at the players and see their intentions.
You travel a lot, see places, make new friends, open doors and experience different cultures.
I remember when I travelled with Township Rollers when they played Al-Merrikh of Sudan in a CAF game, it was a great experience.
Some supporters feel you are biased, how do you handle such criticism?
You can never ever run away from the criticism of being biased because when you are doing commentary, your idea is to make it more interesting.
When one team is doing well, obviously you are going to be pleasing to the ear of those who are winning while those losing don’t like it.
For a long time, people thought I supported Rollers because they were winning everything, had passionate supporters and when you try to describe all these things some get offended (laughing).
Even when Rollers is not doing well, their fans will tell you ‘Manelo o ka go tena tota ha le jewa’ (Manelo will irritate you when your team is losing).
I get that and I know they mean it from a good place so it never really bothers me.
It is never my intention to hurt anyone.
My fans fight my battles on social media, I never comment.
What advice can you give to those dreaming of following in your footsteps?
Opportunities in this area are rare because platforms are few.
In fact it’s only on the national television where people can get that opportunity for now.
Since the opportunities are few, the starting point is at Sunday soccer games.
If you have a small amplified radio, do commentary there.
It will help you refine your craft.
There is also social media, I always see some imitating me and they are good.
Moving away from the mic, when was the last time you cried and why?
I cry a lot because I deal with pastoring learners [providing support to students] and when they go through difficulties in life and they cry, I get emotional.
The last time I cried deeply was when my Mom passed on.
That woman loved me so much. I cried a lot.
Five things people don’t know about you?
1. I am a Molete from Ramotswa
2. I am Catholic
3. I am married with three beautiful kids
4. I am a very emotional person
5. I am shy and humble