Curtain falls on Gino’s illustrious career
By Bakang Mhaladi
GABORONE – Mogogi ‘Gino’ Gabonamong, arguably Botswana best defensive midfielder, has called it a day after an illustrious 19 year career which took him to the ABSA Premiership and even the Carribeans.
Gabonamong (35) played for a number of Botswana sides before he plied his trade in Trinidad and Tobago, had trials at Manchester United, and then settled for a more gratifying spell in the ABSA Premiership in South Africa.
A gritty midfielder, Gabonamong was at home in the holding role as well as central defence where he shone for nearly two decades.
His swan song on Saturday saw him collect a winner’s medal after his side, Township Rollers, cantered to a second consecutive league triumph.
In South Africa, Gabonamong played for Santos and Supersport United before winding up his career with Bloemfontein Celtic.
He returned home in 2015 where he signed for Rollers and capped a fine career with two league titles.
Before going abroad, Gabonamong played for Satmos, Township Rollers and Mogoditshane Fighters and is the only player to represent Botswana at all national levels.
A model professional, Gabonamong told the club’s website that he felt it was time to hang up his boots.
“I have decided to retire from football. I just felt this was the right time. I am at an age where I feel I have done enough and need to move on from playing the game,” Gabonamong told rollers.com.
Gabonamong was once invited for trials by English glamour club, Manchester United, and even though he did not make the grade, it was a worthwhile experience.
His career blossomed at dominant Mogoditshane Fighters between 1998 and 2003 when he won several trophies, including three league titles.
He moved to Selebi-Phikwe side, FC Satmos, for two seasons before he was shipped to Caledonia AIA in Trinidad and Tobago for a brief stint in 2004.
“I was there with Kagiso Tshelametsi. Although it is a small Caribbean island, we got to learn from playing in their league,” he remembers.
He returned home to join Rollers in 2005 before Santos snapped him the following season. Known for taking no prisoners with his crunching tackles, Gabonamong made a name for himself when turning out for the South African outfit.
“They came to watch me when the Zebras played Bafana Bafana in a COSAFA Cup match in 2006. We won after a penalty shootout and I was man of the match. Santos then signed me.”
He made 117 appearances, scoring 17 goals during a five year stay in Cape Town in which he was made captain.
Gabonamong then moved to Gauteng to join Supersport United, going on to make 54 appearances for Matsantsantsa which yielded four goals.
He then wrapped up his career abroad when he moved to the Free State to join Bloemfontein Celtic, playing 15 games and finding the net twice.
In 2011, Gabonamong was rated as Botswana’s highest paid athlete, earning US$354,000 that season.
When he had accomplished his mission in South Africa, he returned home to finish his career at Rollers where he won two league titles and was said to be the best paid player.
Gabonamong made his debut for the national senior side in 1999, where he was capped 47times, scoring three goals in the process. Gino was part of the history making Zebras side which made a first ever appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in 2011.
“I intend to carry on with football matters, although I’ll no longer be a player. I’ll still continue to contribute to football. My advice to younger players is that there is no substitute to discipline and hard work.
“Your lifestyle should reflect the fact that you are a footballer, you need your body in good condition at all times. Young Batswana players should be ambitious; dream big about playing in Europe,” he said.