After announcing his retirement from national team duty early this year, Mochudi Centre Chiefs marksman Jerome Ramatlhakwane somersaulted on his decision and made a surprise return to the team. The aggressive striker marked his return in Independence friendly match against Ethiopia last month. Ramatlhakwane’s former coach David Bright appears to have convinced him otherwise, hence his return. Ramatlhakwane retired from international duty in March this year to give the young players a chance to do their part. However, he cut his retirement short after a lengthy persuasion from Bright. “I made a decision to return after a lengthy discussion with David Bright who wanted me to come back and help the team. Since we are from way back with him I agreed,” he explained. Bright coached Ramatlhakwane at the national U-23 side where they qualified with the Olympic Games qualifiers in 2007. Ramatlhakwane, who was instrumental in helping the Zebras qualify for their first AFOCN finals in 2012, said Bright approached him because he knows what he can do in the field. ‘The Animal’ – as he is popularly known – has been brought in to help address the scoring problems that Zebras has been having.
Upon his return he did not disappoint as he scored two goals for the Zebras. His goals helped the team to win its first ever game in exactly a year. It is not surprising that Bright persuaded Ramatlhakwane to come back. When he was appointed Zebras coach Bright said it will be important to mix experience and young talent for the national team to move forward. Ramatlhakwane’s experience and aggression to get goals is not doubtful looking at his track record. For him, however coming back is a very big responsibility as he is charged with being a role model to the young players. He said he came back to try and steady the ship at the national team. “I am not planning to stay here for long. When there is stability in the team and they start winning games then I will be retiring,” he said. The soft-spoken striker urged the upcoming players to start working hard to make an impact at the national team level. He said it does not paint a good picture for the young players for him or any other retired players to be coming to the national team when they are there.
“I should not be making a comeback now. Young players should start positioning themselves for the national team at a very young age. They should work hard so that they produce good results,” he explained. Soccer analyst Jimmy George, however, differed with Ramatlhakwane saying he sees no problem with him coming back to the game. George said as long as the player is still capable to play, they can always come back to the national team. “Normally players in Botswana players retire because of their personal reasons not because they are old. So to me as long as the player is capable and productive they can come back to serve their nation at any time,” he said. Another analyst Mmoni Segopolo also buttressed what George said explaining that he does not believe that coming back of players from retirement can be a bad thing. Segopolo said as long as the player has what the coach believes will benefit the team there is nothing wrong for him to come back. He said in the case of Ramatlhakwane it might have been because of Botswana’s situation of shortage of strikers.