Legendary Botswana football coach Major David Bright passed away on Monday evening due to a COVID-19 related illness that had seen him hospitalized in recent weeks. The news of Bright’s passing have left the local football fraternity mourning a true legend of the game who nurtured, trained and guided some of the country’s finest ever footballers such as Edwin Disang, Mogogi Gabonamong, Masego Nchingane and Jerome Ramatlhakwana, to name a few.
It is often said that a great leader shines through the exploits of his mentees and Bright was the perfect example of this as he helped players go from talented prospects to established professionals. Bright had a golden touch as most of his proteges went on to reach dizzying heights due to the platform he provided for them to flourish.
As humble as they come, Bright was not one to rest on his laurels and bask in his glory, the smell of the turf or training fields always gave him a reason to wake up and set off to do what he knew best. Bright was one of a kind as he became the first ever local coach to win three consecutive league titles (1999, 2000 and 2001) during his Mogoditshane Fighters days, it is a record that has still not been achieved by any other coach in Botswana football.
The brilliance of Bright will forever be synonymous with the Fighters dynasty which was once the source of national pride in the late 90s and early 2000s. With a winning culture, charm and the odd temper (when provoked of course), Bright was a hit with the media as he always gave them something to write about.
With club dominance already achieved many believed that the next natural step would be national team duty and he was given a chance to lead the Zebras albeit temporarily as the local association always had their sights set on foreign coaches. Perhaps one of his finest achievements followed when he was appointed to lead the under 23 team, popularly known as the Dream Team. He led the Dream Team to the final of the Sasol Eight Nations tournament in South Africa in 2007 whereby they were not even fancied to go past the group stages.
Bright’s team defied the odds as they reached the final, having beaten the likes of Cameroon, China and avoiding defeat against hosts South Africa in the group stages, they then advanced to the semifinals but they eventually lost 1-0 to Cameroon in the final. Bright had also led the team to notable victories in the Beijing 2008 Qualifiers over Guinea and Morocco. By this time his stock had risen to incredible heights and those across the border started to take notice.
Bright then went on to become the first ever Motswana coach to be hired in the South Africa’s top flight league in 2007 as he put pen to paper to lead Engen Santos. For years local coaches could only dream of such an honour but he broke the barriers as he proved that with hard work, charisma and a trophy laden CV, a coaching job can come from anywhere in Africa.
To his credit, Bright upheld the coaching values which made him a serial winner in Botswana at Santos as his team became solid and formidable. Other job opportunities followed in South Africa as he went on to coach the likes of Thanda Royal Zulu, Black Leopards, FC Cape Town and Sivutsa Stars. In between his spells in South Africa he also took charge of Gaborone United, Bright also recorded another local record in 2013 as he became the first local coach to win the Mascom Top 8 tournament as he defeated his protege Letang Kgengwenyane and BDF XI in the final.
True to his calling as a saviour, Bright was roped in to replace Peter Butler in 2017 and although he did not finish his Zebras project he made a good impression as the team displayed encouraging performances. His last coaching job was at Sua Flamengoes whereby he was expected to guide the newly promoted team to preserving their status in the top tier. His death has robbed the newly promoted team of learning from the fountain of football knowledge that was Major David Bright.