Captain marvel

Christinah Motlhabane
ROCK AT THE BACK: TT heads clear against Tunisia

A superstar of sport

Growing up in Gulubane, Thatayaone ‘TT’ Ditlhokwe made sure he never missed a match whenever the national team were on television.

Contents
A superstar of sportThanks for the interview, so what brings you back to Botswana?How often do you come back home?Oh gosh, sorry to hear that. As a child, were you completely focused on football or did you have other interests?Most kids dream about being star strikers and scoring goals – was that the same with you or have you always been a defender? Who was your favorite player growing up?Which teams have you played for locally?You joined Supersport United in January 2020 after two years at Rollers – how did the move come about?Were you nervous joining such a big team?So what’s the major difference between football in SA compared to Botswana?SuperSport have not won the league since 2010 – you sit 3rd at the moment, seven points behind Sundowns, who are chasing their sixth consecutive row. Can you catch them?What’s it like coming up against the likes of Chiefs, Pirates and Sundowns? The atmosphere must be electric?What stands out as your favorite ever match in your career to date?If you had to pick between winning the league with SuperSport or qualifying for AFCON with the Zebras, which one are you picking?What medals do you have in your trophy cabinet?Who’s the best player you’ve played against, internationally and then at club level?Fair enough! Who is your best friend in football – from SuperSport and then locally?Have you taught any of your SuperSport teammates Kalanga – do any of them speak the language?Do you get recognized in the street – both in Pretoria and back home in Bots?Do you have ambitions of one day playing in Europe?We certainly hope so! Boozing is a big problem in local football – do you drink?Do you go to church?You were made captain of Botswana at a very young age. Must have been a proud moment but how did you handle such huge pressure/expectation so young?What makes a good captain?You’re still so young, only turning 24 in September – what ambitions do you have for the future?Despite all your success you seem so grounded, never in any scandals or off-field drama, much to Shaya’s displeasure! How do you stay so humble?Who will you be supporting in the World Cup and who do you think will win it?Away from football, how do you relax? What’s it like living in SA?Captain of the national team and an integral part of one of SA’s top sides, the ladies must be throwing themselves at you? Are you taken?And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what will you be up to this weekend?

Absorbed in the action, the budding footballer made himself a promise: one day, he too would represent the nation.

Although he readily admits he wasn’t the most talented youth, Ditlhokwe never wavered in his dream, steadily improving as he grew older and stronger, eventually joining the biggest club in the land, Township Rollers.

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By 2018, at the age of 19, the no-nonsense defender fulfilled his childhood fantasy, called-up to the Zebras squad for the first time in his career.

It is a career that has gone from strength to strength ever since.

Less than a month after his 21st birthday, Ditlhokwe was handed the ultimate honour: he was made captain of Botswana.

The tough-tackling centre back’s domestic exploits have been just as impressive, moving south of the border in 2020 to join SuperSport United, where he has established himself as a mainstay in the heart of the defence.

Captain marvel
PROUD LEADER: Ditlhokwe leads out the Zebras in Francistown

The Voice’s CHRISTINAH MOTLHABANE caught up with the humble star during a rare recent foray back home…

Thanks for the interview, so what brings you back to Botswana?

I came to Botswana for an event which was happening recently, where I was handing over a playground for children living with disabilities at Tonota Primary School.

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And we are on international break also for the World Cup because the PSL has stopped.

Our next game will be on the 30th December against Marumo Gallants.

I decided to take a break and come to Botswana so I can also train and correct mistakes where I am lacking.

How often do you come back home?

Once in a year to visit.

My family (eldest sister, grandmother and aunts) reside in Gulubane.

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I lost my mother in 2010.

Oh gosh, sorry to hear that. As a child, were you completely focused on football or did you have other interests?

Growing up, we used to play football in our streets in Selibe Phikwe and Gulubane.

We would challenge other streets, betting with 25 thebes, which was a lot of money back then.

I liked watching football on television, more especially the national team whenever it was playing.

I had the desire to play for the Zebras one day.

I played at primary school; I was not talented but that did not stop me from following my passion.

It is thanks to hard work and determination that I am where I am today.

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Most kids dream about being star strikers and scoring goals – was that the same with you or have you always been a defender? Who was your favorite player growing up?

I grew up as a goalkeeper but sometimes being a defender.

In Botswana my favourite player was Sekhana Koko and internationally was former Orlando Pirates midfielder, Thulasizwe Mbuyane.

Which teams have you played for locally?

Gulubane Sporting Club, Gusten United in Selibe Phikwe which played on Second division and selected me for under 17, Nico United and Township Rollers.

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You joined Supersport United in January 2020 after two years at Rollers – how did the move come about?

It was thorough the COSAFA Cup, which was played in Durban and CAF Champions League games played by Rollers.

What made it [the move] to materialize is Erold Dick, an agent who spoke to Supersport.

Their coach, Kaetano Tembo came to watch me when I was playing against Zimbabwe and that is how it came to being.

Were you nervous joining such a big team?

I was not really nervous.

I knew deep in my heart that it was the bottom of a mountain on top of another mountain which comes with challenges and adaptations.

It was a blessing to join SuperSport; it is a club very close to my heart because of the way they treat us.

They treat us the same, whether foreign or not – even the environment is lovely compared to other teams in SA.

With SuperSport everything is professional.

The love they showered me with made me to adapt so easily and quick.

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Our coach, Tembo is very loving.

Whenever you are struggling he is patient and he will push you until you get where he wants you to be.

And I managed with the love and support from my family.

They make sure they check on me time and again.

Determination, hard work, behaving also kept me going.

So what’s the major difference between football in SA compared to Botswana?

South Africa there is a lot of infrastructure, lots of development structures in coaching and they are more professional in football.

In Botswana, we have raw talent that needs to be nurtured.

SuperSport have not won the league since 2010 – you sit 3rd at the moment, seven points behind Sundowns, who are chasing their sixth consecutive row. Can you catch them?

I think the most important thing SuperSport has to do is just to take each game at a time because it is not how you start, it is about consistency and how you finish!

What’s it like coming up against the likes of Chiefs, Pirates and Sundowns? The atmosphere must be electric?

It is, but we have to know that playing against big teams is a motivation on its own.

So, the most difficult game is to play against the so-called small teams.

What stands out as your favorite ever match in your career to date?

It is the game I played against Egypt.

It was a friendly in October 2019 in Cairo.

We were playing with a so-called big nation but, even though we lost 1-0, the performance portrayed was like we were on the same level.

If you had to pick between winning the league with SuperSport or qualifying for AFCON with the Zebras, which one are you picking?

It will be AFCON with the Zebras. The national team is a pride of every player, it is an intercontinental standard which is of great exposure.

What medals do you have in your trophy cabinet?

I have BISA, COSAFA, Botswana Premier League and Orange FA Cup.

Who’s the best player you’ve played against, internationally and then at club level?

There are many!

Fair enough! Who is your best friend in football – from SuperSport and then locally?

I would love to call him my brother, the Zambian player, Kambani Lungu.

We are of the same month, same year, he is older than me with three days.

He is one person who I spend most of the time with in SA.

We are always together, use one car when going for training.

We go to the shops and gym room together.

Where Lungu is, know that TT is also there – sometimes he even sleeps at my place or I go to his place, he is definitely a brother to me!

In Botswana, it is Gape Mohutsiwa.

Have you taught any of your SuperSport teammates Kalanga – do any of them speak the language?

No, but their languages there like Zulu, Venda have a little bit of Kalanga, when they speak, I can pick some of the words.

We communicate in English.

Do you get recognized in the street – both in Pretoria and back home in Bots?

Yes, people do recognize me.

Do you have ambitions of one day playing in Europe?

Yes, even before relocating to SA, my ambition was to go to Europe.

Captain marvel
QUALITY EXPORT: TT playing for SuperSport

I want to see myself playing in Europe.

With consistency and daily improvement, I will get there!

We certainly hope so! Boozing is a big problem in local football – do you drink?

I do not drink and never had appetite for alcohol from young age.

Do you go to church?

Yes, the Fruit of Life Ministry in Selibe Phikwe.

You were made captain of Botswana at a very young age. Must have been a proud moment but how did you handle such huge pressure/expectation so young?

Yes, I became the captain when I was 21.

It was when we were playing the friendly game against Egypt in Cairo and it was all about God’s grace.

What makes a good captain?

Being a good captain is not about the armband only.

It needs someone who was born to lead.

One must have the good qualities, hard work and consistency, of a leader.

He or she must be able to handle pressure.

You’re still so young, only turning 24 in September – what ambitions do you have for the future?

I want to see myself changing to a better version of who I am now.

Despite all your success you seem so grounded, never in any scandals or off-field drama, much to Shaya’s displeasure! How do you stay so humble?

Me being humble is a natural thing, I guess.

I was born like this and it is a blessing from God.

Who will you be supporting in the World Cup and who do you think will win it?

I will be supporting Brazil.

As for who will win, it’s still difficult for me to say, ask me on the quarter final!

Away from football, how do you relax? What’s it like living in SA?

I like watching movies and soapies.

South Africa is a good country with a peace of mind.

Captain of the national team and an integral part of one of SA’s top sides, the ladies must be throwing themselves at you? Are you taken?

It’s a NO to both questions.

And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what will you be up to this weekend?

I will be back at training with SuperSport.

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