Trusting your gut is easier said than done. The thought that everything could go wrong stops many people from making life-changing decisions. Yet, it’s that life-changing decision that could set you on a path to what the youth of today often refer to as “living your best life”.
Bloemfontein-born coach Morena Ramoreboli is one person who trusted his gut and, as we speak, is living his best life out in Botswana as head coach of Premier League club Jwaneng Galaxy, who are in the CAF Champions League group stage for the first time in their history. Ramoreboli and his Jwaneng faced the galaxy of stars littered in Esperance, Etoile du Sahel and CR Belouizdad in Africa’s premier club competition.
Ramoreboli is here because back when he was a teenager, he trusted his gut. An opportunity to become a professional footballer presented itself in the latter years of his teenage life, but he chose to pursue a career in coaching that had little promise at the time compared to playing. Today, over 20 years after taking the decision to become a coach, he is at the highest level of club football on the continent.
But it’s taken a journey to Botswana for Ramoreboli to finally get South Africans to talk about his coaching ability, even though he had given the country a glimpse of what he can do when he led third-tier side Maluti FET College to a 4-1 victory over Soweto giants Orlando Pirates in the 2013 edition of the Nedbank Cup. This is a man who is also responsible for promoting two clubs to the National First Division (now the GladAfrica Championship), but hardly got any attention.
“I started coaching at a professional level when I was 21. I was working at Bloemfontein Young Tigers, in the National First Division, as an assistant coach. But I actually started coaching when I was 18 years old. I had my own team in Bloemfontein. I coached the team until 2001. Then in 2001, I took some of the players from my team to Bloemfontein Young Tigers and some went to university in Bloemfontein. I went to work in 2001 at Young Tigers and the very same season I was promoted to work as an assistant coach in the senior team. When I was 25, I promoted the African Warriors to the first division as the head coach,” he said.
African Warriors wanted to make Ramoreboli coach after they were promoted but he declined, opting instead to continue serving as an assistant coach under the more-experienced Molefi Ntseki.
Coaching, and no detours
When Ntseki left the Warriors in 2009, Ramoreboli was made an offer to be a team manager. He could have jumped at the opportunity to make sure that he had an income at the end of each month, but he was not interested. His sole focus was to coach and be the best at it.
“To be honest, I always wanted to be different. I said no because I was hired as a coach, and I had no desire to become a team manager. I did not want to be distracted by other things,” he said.
Not given a coaching role at the Warriors, Ramoreboli then decided to join Harrismith United. He did not stay there for long, however. He was soon off to the Bloemfontein Young Tigers again. But that would not be the end of his nomadic ways. In 2011, he left and joined Maluti FET College, and would guide them to promotion in 2013.
“I got an offer from African Warriors in 2015, so I left Maluti. I coached Warriors and then I left to join Bloemfontein Celtic as the head of development. They promoted me to the senior team to work as Serame Letsoaka’s assistant. But when Serame resigned, I was told that my contract was attached to his. Then I left to go coach in the Lesotho Premier League. I was there for a season before returning to South Africa to coach Mangaung United in the ABC Motsepe League. We won the league, but we could not promote the team in the play-offs.”
He joined Royal Eagles after that, before going on to serve as assistant coach in the men’s national Under-17 team. He served as caretaker coach for Bafana Bafana in the 2021 Cosafa Cup after stand-in coach Helman Mkhalele picked up Covid-19 and was in isolation. Mkhalele’s assistant Vela Khumalo would not be available too as he had fractured his leg. Ramoreboli won the tournament but, again, would not stay. In September 2021, he moved to Jwaneng in Botswana.
“I had to sacrifice a lot to be where I am. I always tell people that I did not have time for relationships. Even at home, they did not know if I had a girlfriend or not because I was in football. I lost relationships because I had committed myself to the game.”
‘It’s not easy to be trusted’
The 41-year-old, who is now married, understood though that even with the sacrifices he made coaching jobs weren’t going to come easily. “Maybe I am wrong, but I believe that South Africans, for the mere fact that some of us did not play professional football, it’s not easy to be trusted because I don’t have a tag or a reference. In South Africa, sometimes you get hired because someone admired you when you were a player. I always say, whether or not I get the job, I won’t be disappointed.
“I am from the Free State and if I am not given a chance in the Free State, I cannot be angry if someone in Gauteng does not give me a chance. If someone feels Morena has potential, he will come fetch me from wherever I am. But, in the meantime, I will continue to work hard because no one owes me anything. I did not play professional football, so I have to work twice as hard as someone who played professionally.
He continued, “Let me give you an example. When John Maduka was playing football, I was already a coach. When Lehlohonolo Seema was playing football, I was already a coach. Without disrespecting them, these guys retired from playing and they were given a chance. Why? Because they have the background that they played football. John Maduka was a captain, Seema was a captain. So, it was easy for the team owners to believe that those guys could help them. But it’s a process and I also need to respect my journey.”
The Champions League group campaign has not been a breeze for Ramoreboli and his team. Jwaneng are Group C’s whipping boys. The experience he is gaining, however, is invaluable. “I am happy that Jwaneng Galaxy gave me an opportunity to showcase my talent.
“To tell you the truth, it has been a dream to coach with the best coaches on the continent and playing against the best teams on the continent. It’s a dream that I thought would come after many years, or rather when I coach top clubs. Only to realise that God has planned this for me. It’s something I prayed for, and God has answered it on his time. The success of getting to the Champions League group stages won’t go to my head because I respect my journey.”
In time, there is a possibility that Ramoreboli will attract interest from South African clubs, or other clubs on the continent. He is well aware of that but he is in no rush to leave Botswana.
“I need to make sure I grow the Jwaneng Galaxy brand and get the team to an even higher level on the continent. Whether I move or remain, it’s something that’s not in my mind because I want to see the team growing. That’s the priority, to make Galaxy a well-respected brand on the continent.
“For example, Pitso Mosimane dominated South African football first before he could go out. He established himself and I need to establish myself first too. Whether I move to Tunisia, Morocco or Egypt, it will come after I’ve established myself. The biggest mistake we make is to do well for two seasons and think that we are now mature enough to take any challenge. The most important thing is to be patient.”