*Football legend thriving in managerial hot seat
Having made his name as one of the country’s most successful footballers, Pontsho Piro Moloi is fast proving himself an equally accomplished coach.
The 38-year-old Gaborone United caretaker coach, who hung up his boots in 2016, has enjoyed a perfect start to life in the Money Machine hot seat, guiding the Reds to six wins out of six.
Despite his managerial inexperience, Moloi was handed the Moyagoleele reigns in January following the suspension of Phillimon Makwengwe.
It proved to be a masterstroke from the GU hierarchy.
The unassuming, softly-spoken Moloi has breathed new fire into the Gaborone giant’s, reigniting a title bid that looked all but extinguished at the start of the year.
Five points off table-topping Jwaneng Galaxy with ten games left to play – if the season ever resumes – GU are now serious contenders.
Moloi knows exactly what it takes to lift the league, having won it four times as a player during a glittering 10-year career with Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
The Magosi legend would earn himself a similar status with GU fans if he could lead the Reds to a first title in 11 years.
The former attacking midfielder’s ‘perfect six’ include league victories over both Orapa United and Township Rollers, as well as knocking the Ostriches, who were the defending champions, out of the Orange FA Cup to reach the quarter-finals.
Moloi’s laidback demeanour is in stark contrast to GU’s more animated coaches of the recent past, with the likes of Madinda Ndlovu, Rodolfo Zapata and even Makwengwe himself known for their touchline theatrics.
Indeed, giving instructions from the bench, clad in sunglasses, his hands tucked into his pockets, the mild-mannered Moloi looks an unlikely leader.
As the rest of the league are quickly learning, however, looks can be deceiving!
Speaking to Voice Sport this week, Moloi humbly attributed his team’s recent success to the ‘dedication, hard work and discipline’ of the players.
“It has not been an easy journey and credit must go to my boys. They have passion for the game and always do their best to bring results. Some of the players are my age mates, we played together so we understand each other better and some we even hang off the field,” said the man who won over 50 international caps with the Zebras.
Moloi was also quick to praise Makwengwe for his help and advice, stressing they have a ‘strong relationship’ and he regards the seasoned veteran as a mentor.
In his 14 years as a player, Moloi was famous for his flair and attacking intent. However, it is GU’s defence that have caught the eye since Moloi took over, with Mayagoleele keeping four clean sheets in six outings.
Another key element to GU’s stunning revival was Moloi’s shrewd signing of Lesego Galenamotlhale from Chiefs during the transfer window.
Since joining GU, the vastly experienced Galenamotlhale has formed a formidable partnership with club captain Alphanso Modisaotsile in the heart of the Red’s midfield.
“He has settled into the club brilliantly. Lesego took over the armband at Chiefs when I retired so I knew exactly what to expect from him and he has not disappointed!”
Turning his attention to a new addition at the other end of his career, Moloi likened exciting 22-year-old striker Misani Thupa, a summer signing from Extension Gunner, to a young Joel Mogorosi.
“He is very quick going forward, a very talented and fearless player. He is young, learning and I am impressed by his performance. With the guidance of Modisaotsile and Mogorosi, he is coming up well!” said the caretaker coach, who currently holds a CAF C Coaching Licence but plans to eventually go abroad to further his coaching credentials
“There are no courses locally,” he noted grimly.
With all local football suspended until at least the 10 April as Botswana and the world attempt to stop the spread of Coronavirus, local coaches would do well to use the time off coming up with a plan to stop Moloi and his rampant Reds.