Female football coach defies all odds despite health scare

FRANCISTOWN, BOTSWANA — After the doctors told her she can no longer don the Blue, Black and White kit as the midfield maestro due to a health scare, after it was discovered she had ulcers, Gagobotlhale Selebo had to go back to the drawing board and come up with new ways of supporting the game she sees as her first love, football.

The Mahalapye-born coach started kicking the pigskin as early as age 11 at Tshekedi Primary School in 2002, before proceeding to both Boipelo and Swaneng Hill for secondary education between 2004 and 2008 respectively.

“Although I was becoming a better player every time I played, I was developed by the then Green Lovers FC coach Chips Kotswele in Serowe. That’s why I managed to represent my high schools in all the competitions. However, it was in 2008 when playing for Golden Girls in Serowe that I had to hang my boots due to health reasons.

As a player, it is important to listen to doctors’ orders. During our time, we have seen players collapse and die in the field due to health problems and some were even aware. As players regular checkups are extremely important,” she narrated.

In the hot seat; Selebo with her players

When her forced retirement astounded her future football career, she then shifted her attention to coaching as the football bug had already hit her. Destined for bigger achievements, her plan is to secure more coaching badges to better her tactics and grow with the game.

“I am currently holding the FIFA elite youth coaching certificate from Botswana Football Association (BFA). I started coaching in 2010 with a group of boys back home in Mahalapye with a team called Junior Bucks FC. It is made up of the under 15-21 years players.”

Quizzed how he deals with naughty young boys as most football coaches are men, Selebo said no holds are barred when it comes to drilling her players.

“For me it’s easy as my foundation in coaching started with boys so that’s advantageous on my side, it’s really easy and I know how to handle them. They respect me as their coach. They know when its time to put in hard work and laugh with each other. People always asked me such questions why I chose to coach men? Whether they propose love to me or not, I am their leader and as my players they understand that I am their parent somehow,” she laughed.

Coach Gagobotlhale Selebo

Further into Selebo’s coaching career, she was attached with the 2nd division team in Mahalapye dubbed Mahalapye United during the 2016/2017 season. However, her stint was cut short when she had to relocate to Francistown to further her studies where she joined the technical team of Eleven Angels for the 2018/2019 season that plies its trade in the first Division League.

Furthermore, she is already looking at building a legacy for her name in Botswana’s football, and together with her partners they own a team in Mahalapye, which plays in the 2nd division called Mafia Stars.

“This team is a dream, we have ambitions for it although I don’t coach it – together with other partners we make sure that it is well run. BFA has produced a lot of capable coaches so it was time we gave others a chance and also look from afar. The team is built around youthful players so we want to see it playing in the elite league one day and it can only happen if there is hard work and cooperation.”

On duty; Selebo preparing to drill her squad

Contrary to claims that the BFA has neglected women’s football, Selebo says those sentiments are not true as the governing body continues to support women football.

“It might not be at par with men football at the moment but the BFA is trying by all means to support women. They run coaching courses for women and as such women football has grown. The national team is on course to qualify for the Olympics so that’s a testimony that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Selebo chooses the Portuguese international, Jose Mourihno as her role model adding that they slightly have similar backgrounds as they did not play much football and that’s her career thus far.

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