Gabonamong – the man for all seasons for Santos
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.