The winning coach has gone to the Bright side
Dark clouds hang over Botswana’s football after one of its major figures and internationally recognised icon breathed his last on Monday
They say if you get lucky to see the phenomenon of a falling star, you gotta make a wish and say, “Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight: I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight.”
But for all football lovers across the country, if there is one wish they could make now and momentarily believe in magic, it would be to bring back the spirit and soul of coaching icon Major David Bright back in a flash in the flesh so he may live to see what he started.
Bright reportedly succumbed to COVID-19 at the Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital Monday night where he had been hospitalised.
When news of his death broke, the nation went into panic mode imagining Botswana’s football landscape without one of its pillars, the light that shone so Bright for the beautiful game.
Popularly referred to as Fakude, Bright was born on June 13, 1956 and rose to prominence in the 1990s when he guided the then powerhouse, Mogodisthane Fighters, to league honours. As the manager for “The Brazilians,” as one of Fighters nicknames goes, Bright was employed by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) where he retired at the rank of Major.
Throughout his time as a football manager, Bright landed jobs at clubs like Township Rollers, Gaborone United, Holy Ghost, Morupule Wanderers, Sua Flamingoes and BDF XI where he proved his mettle as a top coach.
Regarded as a football genius, his talent saw him in the competitive South African Premier League where he mentored the likes of Engen Santos, Bay United, Royal Eagles and Black Leopards.
Bright is credited for producing national stars such as Mogogi Gabonamong who had a decorated career in both Botswana and South African leagues plying his trade for big teams like Santos, Celtics and Supersport United.
As a youngster, then 15-year old Gabonamong made his Premier League debut in 1998. Under the guidance of Major Bright, Gabonamong once went for trials at the successful English side, Manchester United.
At the beginning of his career, Bright’s most noticeable moment in football history was his 13-year stay with Mogoditshane Fighters where he worked with, among others, Masego Nchingane, another youngster at the height of his career. Nchingane is now the 2nd Vice President of Botswana Football Association (BFA).
In a statement released this week, BFA said it was “reeling in shock and mourning the death of Major Bright who passed away on Monday evening after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 recently”.
As the Bright star dimmed and tributes poured in, BFA president Maclean Letshwiti poured his heart out in a statement: “Shedding tears when someone dies is normal, but I think more people than normal are shedding tears over this and I think they are shedding more than normal,” Letshiti said.
“I think that's just because of the way Major Bright lived his life - so positive, so influential, and just things the right way even when faced with some of the most long odds imaginable.”
The Business Weekly Sport caught up with football analyst Serefete Keagakwa who had nothing but praise for the fallen hero. Speaking in a telephonic interview, Keagakwa described Bright’ as Botswana football’s forefather. “What the likes of (David) Bright did was build a foundation of Botswana football,” he said. “We can refer to them as the forefathers of Botswana football when you look at the players that came to the fore when the forefathers were coaches.”
Asked what set Bright apart as a football coach, Keagakwa said during his peak, “the master tactician” transformed the Zebras into a competitive side on the African continent.
At a critical stage of Botswana football, he added, the coach played a father figure to a majority of the players. Keagakwa named players like former Zebras captain, Mompati Thuma, Gabonamong and Nchingane as being among the creme dela crème of Fakude’s heyday.
“These are players well known in Botswana as Zebras legends and it is all due to what the likes of Bright and Colonel Stan Tshosane (rtd) did,” he said. “You can see that these guys were generational in taking a keen interest in the holistic development of football in the country.”
The Godfather’s fall didn’t go unnoticed as even on Wednesday, the president of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Gianni Infantino, paid his last respects to the legend.
Another nostalgic moment for many will be Bright’s stint with the national Under-23 team that epitomised real growth in Botswana football.
Once upon a time, Bright led what everyone called “The Dream Team” in a quest for continental glory. There Bright and the lads defeated the continent’s footballing powerhouses and became synonymous with victory. The year 2007 will remain the coach and his charges’ brightest and the most nostalgic for Batswana in memory of the magic bonding between Fakude and his conquering charges.
The team had the likes of the sensational Dirang Moloi as well as Moemedi “Jomo” Moatlhaping and Kaone Molefhe, all lads who would later leave a mark on the elite league.
Bright departed for the other side of Eternity at a time when Botswana football has been halted by the COVID-19 pandemic and must have been eager for the blight to pass so football could return.
But as John Doe said in his classic “Death be not proud” poem:”And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”
In the end, death cannot win, for the memory of the Godfather will live long after death has failed.
Rest in Peace, Fakude!
By Kabo Ramasia