Whilst the finest players in the Universe showcase their skills on the World Cup stage in South Africa, one man whose star is shining here in Botswana is up and coming talent Maano Ditshupo.
The versatile Extension Gunners footballer has played as a right winger, right back, defensive midfielder and play maker all in one season. He has excelled in each of these rolls and even caught the eyes of the national selectors. At the age of 25 the Serowe born lad is growing into one of the best players in the league. In this interview with Monnakgotla Mojaki he shares his experiences and dreams.
When and where did you start your football career?
A long time ago as a child growing-up in Serowe. There was a team called Elden Brothers in our ward, and I made my name there. I was later to join Maun Terrors because I went to stay in Maun with my sister, so I decided to play there. I then went to FC Satmos where I would say I made my name at what we called the team of the future. Then I visited my sister in Northern Ireland and played for Lisburn Distillery F C in a semi professional league.
Which coaches gave you the best advice, and what was it?
I was introduced into top-flight football by Mooketsi China Mading at Satmos. He told me that I was the first player he had worked with who understood many things as quickly and easily as I did. He told me that with that spirit I would go places.
Northern Ireland being one of those places. How was that?
When I visited my sister I found that she had already found me a club there. That was back in 2007 and they were in the close season and trying new players. I made the grade just in two training sessions. They enquired about my services and Mading loaned me to the club until I came back in 2008. I got a bit home sick over there and returned home to join Gunners.
How is life at Gunners?
This past season has been great and I’ve enjoyed myself. It was better than the other seasons because we never found ourselves in the relegation battle. Actually I like the style of play at Gunners, so I can’t complain about anything.
How do you rate the Botswana Premier League today compared to five seasons ago when you made your debut?
Today the league is different – to be honest there is more competition. This is possibly because of the money at stake. Everybody wants to win the P1 million at stake and it makes it tough. It is what I call business football.
Your sister handles most of your football stuff – is she your manager?
My sister played football from primary until secondary school. This makes her well informed on the subject and she was quick to note that there was potential in me that has developed into what it is today.
She is processing her papers to try and become an agent and hopefully it will be very soon. We are very close and discuss a lot of things and plan and map the way forward.
How did you react to being called up to the Zebras camp?
Naturally I was really happy, but realised that it was just a start and there was a lot of hard work ahead as I started preparing for life in camp with the best players in the country. It is a big responsibility and I am proud to represent my club and my family. But it was not a complete shock because with the good performances I had been putting in, coach, Daniel Nare told me that somebody must be watching.
How important is being in the Zebras team?
As a player you need national caps to further your career. To go to professional leagues it is important to have the caps and I really need to start having something to show for my efforts. My aim is now to fight for my first appearance.
What has been the reception these past two weeks in camp?
So far so good – I can’t complain. I have learnt a lot. The way we train here differs with what we do at club level. The drills and preparation are just different and you have to grasp them quickly. I learn new things with every training session.
Everyone has been very encouraging. The senior players told me that I was here on merit and should not be nervous, and just continue working as hard as I do at my team. The coach, Tshosane said the Zebras are for all of us and he hasn’t called me to just add numbers, but to compete to be in the starting line-up. He encouraged me to concentrate and compete, which is something I have done all my life.