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Unstoppable football hero

Portia Mlilo
CONGRATULATIONS : CAF Confederations Cup Winner

BW’s soccer export aims for Europe

Zebras’ forward Tumisang Orebonye became the first football player from Botswana to ever win the TotalEnergies CAF Confederations Cup with his current club Union Sportive de la Médina d’Alger (USM Alger) of Algeria.

USM Alger won the title, becoming the first ever Algerian club to win the Confederation Cup title, after edging out Tanzania’s Young Africans on the away goal rule, following a 2-2 aggregate draw.

They lost the return fixture 1-0 in Algiers but their first leg 2-1 victory in Dar-es-Salaam saw them clinch the crown.

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Popularly known as Teenage or Benteke because of his resemblance to the Belgian international, the star striker is one of the best.

The 27-year-old Lecheng native joined the club in February on loan from Olympique Club de Khouribga (OCK) of Morocco.

Orebonye is one of a select few local footballers to make it big outside the country.

Our Reporter Portia Mlilo had a chat with this most decorated football star about his great achievement and future plans.

Congratulations on winning the CAF Confederations Cup, how does it feel?

This is a dream come true.

It is every football player’s dream to win continental or world competition.

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I am very happy and proud that I am part of the team that won this prestigious cup.

I even carried a Botswana flag when I was receiving my medal.

Batswana were happy for me.

I made history and so is USM Alger because this is their maiden CAF title.

Kindly describe your journey in this competition.

When I joined USM from Morocco in February, it was already in the group stage.

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It was not an easy journey.

There was a time when we needed points in a tough encounter against FC Saint Eloi Lupopo and we managed.

It was an away game and we managed to draw, that was our turning point.

Had we lost it, we were going to be out of the competition.

How did you end up joining USM?

My agent came with an offer and I decided to take it.

I wanted to try a new environment and league in North Africa.

OCK management also agreed to release me and I will forever be grateful for the generosity and putting my interest first.

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This is your first season.

How did you manage to adapt and adjust quickly?

I think I adapted quickly because the culture, lifestyle, language and food doesn’t differ much with that of Morocco.

Even their style of play is the same and the reception here is good.

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Management, technical team and my teammates treat me well.

You missed a penalty on this crucial game, what went through your mind when you went to take it?

Eish! I won’t lie to you.

That was the most painful thing.

I told myself that this is the end of me.

I knew everyone was going to blame me if we had not been crowned the champions.

The game was remaining with 37 minutes and it was tough.

Our opponents were leading 1-0 and we had to play with caution so that they didn’t get an opportunity to extend their lead.

Were you under pressure?

Ever since I played this side, I have never been under any pressure because I trust myself and I know what I am capable of.

With this one, I will say I was more concerned of what could happen, what if we lose the game and what next.

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This was a different ball game altogether, we were home and all eyes were on us.

I wouldn’t say I was under pressure but I lost focus.

Anyway, it is part of the game and I learnt something.

When did you start playing football, who identified your talent and recruited you to join football?

I started playing football on the streets at my home village Lecheng with my age mates.

I was born in a family that loves football so my parents made sure they buy me soccer boots and a ball.

When I was doing standard 7 there was a teacher at a junior school, Mr Sebego who identified my talent.

He recruited me to play for the Mokgalo Junior School team when I was in primary.

Mr Sebego made me believe in myself and turned me into a football monster.

He trained me until I was called for the national U17 team.

I am where I am today because of me.

What does it take to be a great football player?

All it takes is self-discipline, hard work, believe in yourself and have faith.

There will be bad and good moments in football and that should not demoralize you.

Stay focused and avoid hanging out with the wrong people.

One football moment you can never forget and why?

When I was signed by OCK in Morocco with my homeboy Kabelo Seakanyeng.

The same year we assisted the team gain promotion to Botola Pro (top division).

Skhebo and I scored and assisted the club in critical moments.

Making an impact! That was the best moment ever.

What advice can you give to those aspiring to be professional football players?

A player can be a millionaire especially when playing professional football.

I urge them to take their talent seriously and always aim higher, sky is the limit!

If you listen to every person who tells you, you are a fantastic player or a terrible player you will get confused.

I think if you always believe in your ability then that will take you far and that is what I have always done.

Good football players usually get all the glory and all the women, has that ever happened to you?

Hahaha!(He laughs) it happens a lot but you must be disciplined and not be led into temptation.

There is someone I am seeing and she is very supportive.

You must be careful who you are dating because that person can make or break you.

Growing up, who was your idol, and the player you looked up to?

To be honest there was no individual player I was looking up to but I would say I was a staunch Township Rollers supporter, I was watching their strikers play.

I used to watch Sox Molwantwa, Terence Mandaza, Tsotso Ngele, Skhana Koko, Abednico Powel, Onalethata Tshekiso, Joel Mogorosi and others.

I ended up playing for Rollers.

What are your future plans as far as your football career is concerned?

Winning more trophies.

We are currently preparing for the 2022/2023 CAF Super Cup against Al Ahly and I want to win it.

We are going into the next season and if I get an offer of a better league, I will go for it.

My dream is to play in the European League and I know one day I will achieve it.

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

My life is football.

Sometimes I chill with my teammates after the match, especially when we have won and we continue with the celebration.

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