When Doctor Khumalo retired in 2004, I told myself I would no longer follow football! Soccer is very painful because there is a time when we get excited at the prospect of an emerging talent, and an eventuality when the great player’s legs can no longer run. The retirement of John Shoes Moshoeu in 2008 also killed me. The reason was simple; he was still too good at the age of 40. Shoes went into business where he has excelled remarkably. Then prior to him, an industrious England player Paul Ince shocked me when he left the game to pursue a coaching career. Zinedine Zidane also shocked the entire planet when he quit the game at a time when he was still better than anyone else. I have never been a great admirer of defenders but I liken defenders to mothers’ personalities. They have so much love; they are jealous and guard the team against any danger, especially their goalkeepers. They are so protective; they are the most caring in the team. Observe them when the team loses; they feel bad and worse than anyone else. The truth is, the more the team loses, the more they get a bad image. Defenders are vital. It is normally their attitude that makes them stand out as not many defenders are talented.
Of the many defenders we have watched, perhaps only Roberto Carlos remains the most complete, or rather gifted player with skill and all the attributes possessed by any other player. Their dedication puts them in good stead. Their die hard attitude, application and will to win is inspiring. Their discipline, endurance, the hunger to stay longer in the game, and their determination to become exceptional is notable. This explains Mompati Thuma; our soldier who has stood in line for over ten years and always available for national duty. The most notable thing about Apache is that as a soldier in training, he was taught that Botswana comes first. He has stayed true to that and it is conspicuous in his game. He has really played the game with his heart out, captained the nation during turbulent times and through sunshine. He deserves a little more than a just a “send off” game against South Africa because this is in fact a mandatory game.
I therefore recommend that the BFA put together something in form of a memorabilia or souvenir for Thuma as a gift that would be given to him prior to kickoff in Durban live on TV. This they could communicate in writing to SAFA so that it is highlighted in the match, and also for the television to recognize that Thuma would be leaving international soccer. This match is live on television stations and Thuma would be happy with a little bit of that respect. This has happened across the world to recognize a player who is retiring.
Apache has been a phenomenal soldier; an exemplary leader whose communication ability is compensated by his solid performances in each match. At 80 caps, that is a milestone, perhaps the most capped player in the country. It is a sad reality but that which all of us must reconcile ourselves with as a matter of urgency because heroes come and go. What do we do with their legacy, the foundation they have put behind for us? How do we replicate their commitment to us? My biggest fear is forgetting Mompati Thuma, the same way we have forgotten BB Sechele amongst others!