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The rise of Piro

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*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.

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A dream deferred

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CORONA PUTS SLOVAKIA ON HOLD FOR LOCAL DUO

The chance of a lifetime, to play domestic football in Europe, has been put on hold for two local ladies as the coronavirus pandemic keeps its killer claws wrapped tightly around world sport.

National team players, goalkeeper Sedilame Bosija and striker Reilwe Tholakele were meant to leave for a four-month trial with top Slovakian side Partizan Bardejov at the start of March.

The try-outs were scheduled to run until 30 June, as the duo looked to secure contracts with the Division One outfit.

That dream has been deferred, for now.

The pioneering pair were identified by Bardejov after impressing during the national team’s training camp in Slovakia last year.

The Mares had travelled to the landlocked Central European nation as part of their preparations for the Olympic Qualifiers.

It proved to be an apt choice.

Shortly after their return from the West, the ladies famously went on to knock South Africa out in the second round of qualifying, beating their mighty neighbours 3-2 on penalties after the two-legged tie finished goalless.

23-year-old Bosija starred in the match, brilliantly saving two penalties to cap a heroic performance.

Although the journey would ultimately end in a narrow loss to Zambia in the next round, the victory over a South African side who had competed at the World Cup just a month earlier remains a milestone in local sport.

For the trail-blazing Bosija, making history is nothing new.

The Tutume-born shot stopper became the first Motswana lady to play in the South African league when leading club Bloemfontein Celtic snatched her up in 2017.

RISING HIGH: Bosija

Bosija’s three-year contract with Celtic came to an end last December and she remains anxious to explore new opportunities.

Tholakele, meanwhile, has made her name at the other end of the pitch.

The 24-year-old Township Rollers forward is a natural goal-scorer and has led the line for the national team for many years now.

Tholakele’s speed and strength, combined with her clever movement make her a nightmare for defenders to play against.

Speaking to Voice Sport this week, a disappointed Bosija said she had no doubt that both herself and Tholakele would have excelled at Bardejov.

“It is unfortunate that we could not travel because of this world disaster. But the deal still stands and we are hopeful this shall pass and we will be able to go.”

Indeed, the dedicated keeper revealed she is working hard on her fitness to ensure she is ready to pounce when her chance arrives.

“I am currently training every day in the afternoon to keep fit and national team Goalkeeper Coach Thabo Motang is facilitating the training. There was another team in Czech Republic which was interested in signing me but the Slovakian one was quick to send a letter. We agreed with our agent Moran Nthoiwa to go there and the team was to pay our four-month stay expenses,” explained Bosija, who started playing football as an 11-year-old at Monarch Primary School in Francistown.

Originally Bosija began as a striker but, fortunately for Botswana football, fate was to intervene.

“One day during school ball games our goalkeeper was absent and my teammate, Tshiamo Manuel advised me to take the position. We lost 1-0 but the coach was impressed by my performance and so I continued in goal.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

“We qualified to represent the Francistown region in the nationals where I was identified by Tshepo Mphukuthi who called me for U13 camp. I was very consistent in my performance and played for U15, U17, U20 and now senior national team. I played for Rollers from 2013 to 2015 and in 2016 I joined Double Action where I played for few months before I was signed by Celtic,” summarised Bosija, who was quick to thank the Botswana Football Association (BFA) for their part in her rise.

It is a rise that for now must come to a standstill.

The next chapter, however, should make for fascinating reading!

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BNOC to call off camp

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LOC to meet with affected federations

Following the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to next year due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) is mulling the idea of calling off camp.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and the Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo took a decision on Tuesday to reschedule the Olympic Games to the summer of 2021.

The decision was made to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.

Likewise, BNOC held an emergency meeting on Wednesday and the Local Organising Committee has been tasked with meeting with management from the affected sporting codes to deliver the outcome of the meeting before an official announcement is made.

Voice Sport has been reliably informed that while many agreed that it made sense to break camp due to cost implications, federations are however worried about their athletes who are likely to lose form.

Athletes who have already qualified and many still chasing their qualification berth went in to camp in November last year.

The camp comprises of athletes from athletics, boxing, weight lifting and swimming.

Speaking to Voice Sport on Wednesday evening, a worried BNOC Chief Executive Officer Tuelo Serufho said an official announcement will be made after LOC has met with concerned federations. Serufho told Voice Sport that they find themselves between a rock and a hard place as they currently don’t know whether IOC will extend the qualifying period, or what lies in store for those who’ve already qualified.

According to the previous schedule athletics and boxing qualifiers were to go on until the end of June while judo and swimming were scheduled up until the end of July.

Serufho said BNOC is worried that athletes will lose form since there will be no competitions unless the CoronaVirus scare subsides.

“What are we going to do to sustain their performance since they are not allowed to train as a team?” Serufho asked rhetorically.

He revealed to Voice Sport that due to the suspension of sporting activities they had to cancel their plans of sending athletes to a High Performance Center in South Africa.

“Some of our athletes were scheduled to go for a training session in Europe at the end of June,” he said.

Over the weekend two athletes Baboloki Thebe and Onkabetse Nkobolo were involved in a car accident after they sneaked out of camp for a boozy night out.

Quizzed on measures they have in place to ensure that all athletes follow their coaches training programmes to remain fit and disciplined, Serufho could only say they will discuss the issue with Federations.

“Botswana Athletics Association is currently investigating the incident involving those two athletes and they are expected to give BNOC a full report,” said Serufho.

Botswana is still looking to add to her only Olympic success, a 2012 Silver medal won by 800m sprinter Nijel Amos at the London Summer Olympics.

The 2021 Olympics offers the nation another opportunity a rare but greatly desired podium finish.

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