Local football world is fi -nally realizing the vital roleplayed by defensive midfielders. Their workaholic displayshave long been overshadowed bythe goal scoring and silky skillsof attack minded players. Beinga midfi elder may not be the mostglamorous position but it is themost vital because it helps slowdown counter attacks and providesa link between defence and midfield.The defensive midfi eld rolewas mastered by former Frenchmidfi elder Claude Makelele. Theretired midfi elder is regarded asthe blueprint for the position becausehe known to sacrifi ce hisgoal scoring ambitions in order toprotect his fellow midfi elders andgiving them a chance to expressthemselves.
Players such as Alphonse Modisaotsile,Ofentse Nato, BoitumeloMafoko and many others areexamples of midfi elders who areexcelling in the ‘Makelele role’.Nato is Botswana’s top scorer inthe 2014 World Cup Qualifi erswith two goals so far.The 2012/13 beMobile Playerof the Season shortlist consistedof two defensive midfi elders andone attacking player to symbolisethe rise of the defensive mindedplayers.In the past two seasons, two defensivemidfi elders have walkedaway with major individual honors.Modisaotsile of GaboroneUnited won the Coca Cola CupPlayer of the Tournament awardlast year while Mochudi CentreChiefs’ Elvis Meleka won the be-Mobile Premier League Player ofthe season accolade this season.Defensive midfi elders, alsoknown as anchormen or holdingmidfi elders, are seldom praised fortheir hard-tackling displays.
Theirrole is to protect the defence whileoffering cover to allow playmakersto fl ourish without danger of beingthwarted by their opponents.A decisive pass from a playmakeris given praise but the ballwinning ability of his midfi eldcounterpart before the pass is oftenoverlooked. The build up to anassist and a goal is instigated by aholding midfi elder.It is worth noting that withoutMeleka, Dirang Moloi would nothave fl ourished. The same couldbe said of Township Rollers’ NtesangSimanyana who relies on thedefensive assistance of LawrenceMajawa in order to stamp his authorityon a game while Mafokodoes likewise for Ofentse Mmipiat BDF XI.“Most people focus more onattacking players because holdingmidfi elders do not score veryoften. Defensive midfi elders areresponsible for making each teamtick and if they are absent or offform their teams would struggle.
Arecent example is the Zebras andEthiopia game whereby the homeside lacked a defensive midfi elderto halt the Ethiopians’ attacks,”said football analyst, Fabien Zulu.“Zebras struggled because theydid not have a ball winning midfielder. When Nato returned forthe game against Central AfricanRepublic the side improved a lotand ended up winning. His returnallowed Dirang Moloi to excel inmidfi eld and have an infl uence onthe game. A player like Elvis Melekaalso deserves plaudits becausehe was an ever present player inChiefs’ title run,” added Zulu.He also stated that nations suchas Brazil always use a defensivemidfi elder in their formation tounderline the importance of thedeep lying players in almost everyteam’s set up.