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Sporting legend

Portia Mlilo
INSPIRATIONAL: Sebaetseng Mokokwe

Botswana sport hall of famer

Botswana’s celebrated woman football referee and Confederations of African Football (CAF) Referees elite instructor and match commissioner Sebaetseng Glenda Mokokwe was recently inducted in the Botswana Sport Hall of Fame.

The 56-year-old Mogobane born Mokokwe was the first woman referee in Botswana to officiate at the level of Premier League and Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA).

She is currently CAF Technical Referees’ Instructor, Assessor and Commissioner where she trains young referees by conducting courses in Africa.

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Mokokwe who is also a Physical Education Teacher by profession, observes referees’ performances during international games as FIFA Assessor.

In the COSAFA regions, she is used as a mentor, Assessor and Match Commissioner. She currently owns Loapi Sporting Academy under Glenda Moleofi Sports Trust in Mogoditshane.

Our Reporter Portia Mlilo had a chat with this decorated referee about her recent honour and experience in this male dominated sporting code.

Sporting legend
Mokokwe with Minister Rakgare

Q. Congratulations on being the Hall of Fame inductee, what does this honour mean to you?

This means a lot to me and a great honour.

The Botswana Sport Commission recognizes me as one of those who made an impact in sports and is seen as a role model for young girls.

I have worked hard for Botswana football locally and also represented our country in international football games as a referee and an instructor.

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Q. What criteria was used to nominate you for this induction?

This is a unique award.

It doesn’t come easy.

I have earned my stripes.

I believe my profile made me get this award.

Q. When did you develop interest in being a football referee?

I started as a football player when I was at University of Botswana as a Physical Education student with Reuben Rathedi and Moeteledi Chaenda.

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We introduced women football in Gaborone and the surrounding areas.

That was the time when Ashford Mamelodi was the CEO of the Botswana Football Association.

Women football was new and we did not have qualified referees for our league and one day I went to meet Mamelodi to talk about how the association could assist us.

He told me of a coming refereeing course and invited me to take part.

In 1998 I successfully completed a referees beginners course.

Since then, I did not relax, I had to work hard to be where I am today.

Q. What are some of your greatest achievements as a referee?

I have achieved a lot, officiating international games, winning referee of the year award just to mention a few.

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In 2005, I attended the Special Olympics World Games in Connecticut (USA) as a five-a-side soccer coach.

That was a great platform that I believe gave me exposure.

It also gives me pleasure to see my former trainees that trained in the CAF elite referees course doing well in the game.

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I have trained Salima Mukasansanga from Rwanda (first female to participate in the FIFA men’s World Cup).

She will also be in the New Zealand/ Australia women’s world cup together with Akhona Mkhalima from South Africa.

Victor Gomez from South Africa is also one of them.

He was at the just ended world cup.

Q. And the other end of the scale, what are some of your lowlights?

Some referees tried to sabotage me, especially men.

I did not allow them to get away with it.

I was vocal and thanks to the media.

I made sure female referees’ voices were heard.

The good thing is that they were not doing me any favours, I never failed any fitness test so they had no excuse not to allocate matches for me to officiate.

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Q. Of the matches you officiated, which one did you enjoy the most and why?

The first international game after becoming a FIFA referee.

I was officiating a match between Lesotho and Zimbabwe in Maseru and I was assisted by two males, Keoagile Moletlanyi and Harris Lebotse.

The stadium was fully packed, tempers were high but I managed to handle the game well with confidence.

Q. What is the most challenging thing about being a female referee in Botswana?

The most challenging not only in Botswana but Africa is that the supporters are rowdy.

Supporters use vulgar language when your decisions do not favor them.

You have to be mentally and physically fit.

Walk with confidence and make them notice there is a referee officiating the match not a femal.

This is an emotional sport.

Q. We have few female referees in Botswana. Why do you think that is the case?

We need mentors who can unearth, monitor and nurture talent across the country.

Regions must have former referees who can do this and make sure they do not fall in any traps.

On a monthly basis, they need to be brought together and invite sports psychologists to address them because most of them cannot stand insults by supporters at the stadium.

They are fragile.

Q. I understand you have a football academy, when did it start and what is its mandate?

I have Loapi Sporting Academy,which I have made partnerships with charitable centres like Tsogang Trust where they are housing orphans.

I train kids on football and teach laws of the game.

Other codes that I train them on is volleyball and I will be introducing netball soon.

I use my money to do all this.

Since 2021, I have been working with elderly women and teaching them swimming lessons.

That gives me pleasure to see a woman doing something they never thought they could do.

Q. What are your future plans with the academy?

The idea to identify, develop and nurture talent.

If all goes well I will want to have facilities for other sporting codes, not only football.

Q. What makes a great referee?

Somebody who doesn’t take bribes.

A focused person who knows what is right and wrong.

Be disciplined on and off the field.

Make sure training becomes your lifestyle so that you don’t fail fitness tests.

A referee should always be prepared because you can be called for duty at any time.

Q. What do you think needs to be done to improve the conditions of referees in Botswana?

A lot needs to be done.

We need proper records and profiling of referees.

They need support even when they officiate in international games, there should be follow-up on their performance and the challenges they face.

That will even help us one day have a referee who will officiate at the World Cup.

Q. What advice can you give to women aspiring to be Football Referees?

Have a strong character.

Work hard as nothing comes easy in life.

They should know their worth.

No shortcuts, they should attend FIFA courses.

Avoid love affairs with football players as that can affect their performance and make unfair decisions.

Q. Who is your inspiration?

Joy Setshedi who is a football administrator and the Founder of Joy Foundation.

She is a woman of substance.

She is really living her vision despite the challenges she faces.

She inspired me to establish an academy.

Joy always motivates me to soldier on and when the going gets tough, she is a phone call away.

Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

I will be attending my mentor and friend Joy Setshedi’s 50th birthday in Mochudi at Dinkgwana Chillas.

Achievements:

· In June 2005, Mokokwe attended Special Olympics World Games in Connecticut (USA) as a five-a-side soccer coach

· She became the first chairperson of a committee that formed the Women’s Football in 1997

· She passed referees’ fitness test and was accredited as a FIFA woman referee in 2000, the first that the Botswana Football Association has tried and succeeded in enlisting a woman referee

· She was awarded referee of the year award at the Botswana National Sport Council Awards

· Her first official international game was in August 2000 when she officiated a match between Lesotho and Zimbabwe

· In 2003, she attended the FIFA women’s football symposium in USA

· In 2005, she received a Vanguard women’s leader of Botswana from American Embassy

· She attended the International Working Group (IWG) conference in 2006 held in Japan.

· She is the founder and Director of Glenda Moleofi Sports Trust

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