Shooting for the stars

Portia Mlilo

Flying high in a foreign land

As far as local footballers go, few have achieved as much as Mogakolodi Tsotso Ngele.

For the last seven years, the long-legged 29-year-old midfielder has plied his trade in the South African Premier League.

The Gaborone native’s time in Mzansi has been laden with silverware, including two league titles, a CAF Champions League triumph and two Telkom Cups.

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Ngele has played for giants such as Mamelodi Sundowns, Bidvest Wits, Platinum Stars, Supersport United and his current club, Black Leopards – a side he joined at the start of the season on a two-year contract.

He was also part of the history-making Zebras squad that qualified for AFCON 2012.

In what remains Botswana’s only appearance at the continental competition, Ngele – then aged 21 – was the country’s standout player.

Voice Sport’s PortiaMlilosat down with the former Township Rollers enforcer where they discussed his footballing past, present and future as well as his clothing label.

Q. How did your interest in football start?

I started playing when I was eight years old, turning out for FlamengoDesportos under the tutelage of Sexton MatshidisoKowa.

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I was coached by Kowaand George Mogopodi.

These two have contributed a lot in my career development.

They nurtured my talent until I caught the eyes of coaches in the junior national teams.

Q. Much of your time at Sundowns was spent warming the bench. How did that affect your career?

It’s a sad part of football life to not get enough game time but you must have discipline and remain strong mentally.

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I kept myself busy with my clothing line, ‘Supplies Company’ and music-recording label, MN Entertainment.

That really helped otherwise I was going to be depressed.

Of course it did affect my career because for you to excel and perform at your best, especially in the national team, you must have game time.

Taking an enforced break affects your performance and there is nothing as painful as being passionate about your career but not gettingthe chance to play.

Q. At the start of the current season, you joined another South African PSL side, Black Leopards on a two-year contact. How have you settled in in?

Joining Leopards was a blessing because I am now doing what I love most.

For them to show interest in me even when I didn’t play last season shows that they believe I can add value to the club.

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They saw something special in me and I should reward them with a good service of my talent.

Everyone was happy to see me when I arrived and it was like I’ve been here for years because I knew former teammates like Robert Ngambi and ThusoPhala.

Their reception was perfect, I can’t complain.

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Q. What would you say was the turning point in your career?

My career turning point was when I went to Wits on loan from Sundowns.

It was special move as the coach who rejected me at SuperSport when I was on trial wanted to give me an opportunity to play for him.

I still thank Coach Gavin Hunt for giving me that opportunity and it was special because I contributed during my time at Wits with goals and assists.

We ended up winning the league and MTN 8 Cup.

Q. You turned 29 in October – do you still harbour dreams of playing in Europe?

I had an opportunity to go play in Europe but some internal issues that I can’t mention denied me that.

Remember when Abedi Pele Ayew was in Botswana for AFCON trophy tour, I spoke with him and he agreed to take me to Europe.

Unfortunately some people decided to block my move.

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Even when I was at Platinum Stars I did well – all I asked from my agency at the time was to go for trials but they failed to do that.

The truth is I’m old now, I have ruled that dream of Europe out.

I think it’s my time to pass the baton on to another big player to not just come out of Botswana but aim to play in Europe.

Q. Zebras newly appointed Head Coach, Adel Amrouche recently suspended a number of players for indiscipline. What was your take on that?

I’m a well-disciplined player.

Football is like a father-to-son relationship – if your son strays into trouble,wakgalemajaakamotsadi(you speak to them like a parent), you don’t have to be harsh on them especially if they are young.

They are learning and have the talent they can make a life out of.

They need guidance.

Q. Most of our local exports to South Africa never seem to last in Mzansi for long. Why do you think that is and how have you managed to achieve such a lengthy stay?

Maybe they become home sick (laughing).

On a serious note, this is a major concern.

I would love to see more players playing in other leagues, and not only in SA.

We need those skills and international experience to have a competitive national team.

It is something that football agents should look into and find out the possible reasons.

For me, discipline, hope, faith and patience are things that made my stay long in SA.

It has not been an easy journey and at times I felt like I was rejected and wanted to come back home.

Shooting for the stars

Q. Looking back, what do you regard your greatest achievements on the football field?

I will start at home.

When Botswana qualified for AFCON 2012, I believe that was the greatest achievement because we made history.

At Sundowns, I won Telkom, league and I was part of the squad that won CAF [Champions League].

At Wits, we won the MTN 8 and were league champions, whilst at Platinum Stars I won, MTN 8 and Telkom, where I was even voted Player of the Tournament.

Q. What does it take to be a professional player?

To be a professional requires a lot of sacrifice as you will no longer live a normal life to succeed.

Discipline will take you far and you need to have a big heart to be positive in every situation.

You should not be mentioned in scandals or any act of wayward behavior and find yourself making headlines for the wrong reasons because it will shift your focus and you will lose confidence.

Q. Who is your inspiration?

I draw a lot of inspiration from my family: my mother Susan, brother Godfrey, aunty Tebogo, sister Kefilwe, grandmother Josephine and grandfather George Ngele.

These people are my pillar of strength, I am what I am today because of them.

I will also not forget my fans, they are so amazing and they inspired me to work hard and take my career to another level.

Q. As you mentioned earlier, you have interests outside football. What inspired your clothing label?

I used to watch fashion channels;Pharrell Williams inspired me with his fashion business model as I look up to him.

Every business has ups and downs but the aim is not to give up.

You must keep up with the trend, especially in clothing.

My challenge is being far from my company.

I’m new in the game of clothing industry and experience is the best teacher.

You will lose money in the process but don’t quit, patience is key.

One day the brand will be big and penetrating the international market.

Q. And what are your plans once your playing days are over?

My future plan after football is to focus on my businesses.

But obviously I will still engage in football, maybe start coaching.

I really want to play a part to find another star from my Township White City, that’s why I make a charity tournament every year for my people.

I hope to find sponsors next year to grow the movement.

It’s not about football only but also music, health issues, business ideas and it’s about giving back to the community I grew in.

It’s about giving HOPE in my township.

Q. And finally, Thank God It’s Festive – what are your plans for the holidays?

I can’t wait to be home.

I am coming to Gaborone and I will be spending time with my family.

This is the time when everybody will be home and we share Christmas meal.

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