Gabona­mong – the man for all sea­sons for San­tos

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - ROD­NEY REINERS

SOME say Mo­gogi Gabona­mong is yet to play a bad game for San­tos. Far-fetched? Im­pos­si­ble? Per­haps... but what is without doubt is that, since he first came to San­tos three years ago, Gabona­mong has been the club’s most re­li­able, most con­sis­tent player. For the last two sea­sons, he has been named as the Player of the Year, a re­mark­able achieve­ment.

This sea­son, Gabona­mong has con­tin­ued in the same vein, churn­ing out per­for­mances that im­press and in­spire.

This evening at New­lands, the Botswanan cen­tral de­fender will again be an in­flu­en­tial pres­ence upon which San­tos will pre­pare for their crunch PSL fix­ture against big-spending Mamelodi Sun­downs (kick off 8.15pm).

San­tos come off a morale-boost­ing 2-0 win over neigh­bours Ajax Cape Town in mid­week – a match in which Gabona­mong was again as safe and se­cure as Fort Knox – and are looking to use the Pre­to­ria club to add more con­sis­tency to the team’s per­for­mances.

With the solid Botswana de­fender an­chor­ing things, San­tos should be com­pet­i­tive.

Born in Mmut­lane, in Botswana, the 26-year-old Gabona­mong – nick­named “Gino” by team-mates – is a reg­u­lar starter for the Botswanan na­tional team. Hum­ble, soft-spo­ken and un­ob­tru­sive off the field, he comes to life on a foot­ball field, where his nat­u­ral ath­leti­cism, as­tound­ing stamina and all-round game aware­ness come to the fore.

Dis­ap­pointed that San­tos played be­low-po­ten­tial last sea­son, Gabona­mong, who also cap­tains the team, is con­fi­dent San­tos can im­prove this time around.

“We have set our ob­jec­tives for the sea­son,” he said. “I think it all lies with us. What­ever we want to achieve is all in our hands. It’s about our per­for­mance and not what the op­po­si­tion does.

“If we keep work­ing hard and putting in the ef­fort, things will hap­pen. And we will start to play to our po­ten­tial.”

For new San­tos coach Boe­bie Solomons, it has been an up-and-down start to the sea­son.

But he was very happy with the win over neigh­bours Ajax, and he is ex­pect­ing even more from his squad as the sea­son pro­gresses.

“It was a tough match against Ajax in mid­week,” Solomons said. “They re­main one of the coun­try’s best teams.

“But I think that we were in top form on the night. We were very or­gan­ised and they strug­gled to pen­e­trate our de­fen­sive lines. Even though we were vic­to­ri­ous, the team still has to fol­low a pro­gramme which will re­quire a lot of hard work and prepa­ra­tion

“We need to hold onto the ball a bit more in or­der to cre­ate and score goals. We have worked on this ex­ten­sively and, es­pe­cially when get­ting to the at­tack­ing third on the field, we need to hold the ball a bit longer. It is very im­por­tant to ap­ply the above-men­tioned in the league, in or­der to end up suc­cess­ful.

“We had a good start against Chiefs. We were dis­ap­pointed with the loss to Celtic, but still re­mained con­fi­dent, we were just un­lucky in that match. The team is play­ing well and are now much wiser to cre­ate more goals. They must just be con­sis­tent in their im­prove­ment.”

That drive for con­sis­tency con­tin­ues at New­lands this evening, though San­tos are likely to find that Sun­downs won’t be in too gen­er­ous a mood.

Al­ready Sun­downs club pres­i­dent Pa­trice Mot­sepe has im­pressed on new coach, for­mer Bul­gar­ian star Hristo Sto­ichkov, that he wants to win “ev­ery­thing” this sea­son. If that’s not pres­sure, then noth­ing is.

MR SAN­TOS: Ma­gogi Gabona­mong (right) is an ever-present fig­ure at the heart of the San­tos de­fence. Here he is with Musa Otieno.

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