Mabalane — Former Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Zebras stalwart, Louis 'Teenage' Tlhowe was laid to rest on Saturday at his home village of Mabalane in Kgatleng District.
The former player, born June 4, 1957 hailed as one of the best strikers the country has produced, succumbed to a heart disease on June 12.
In a letter read during the funeral, Assistant Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Dikgang Makgalemele described Tlhowe as a pioneer, who opened doors for local stars.
Tlhowe was the first Motswana to play in South Africa and the assistant minister said as per his request, he would look into how government could take care of national heroes.
Former Centre Chiefs coach Saxton Kowa said he enjoyed the days he worked with Tlhowe, saying one of the best memories he would forever cherish was the 4-0 victory over Township Rollers in the Mainstay Cup Final.
Kowa paid tribute to Tlhowe and his former teammates for having laid down the foundation that had made Centre Chiefs one of the big teams in the country.
He further said, before the humiliating defeat, Rollers and Chiefs were not rivals, but everything changed after that.
Before his exploits at Centre Chiefs, Tlhowe played at Sikwane Young Wizards and Big 15 in Mochudi and he was recruited to the Chiefs B team while he was still a student at Linchwe II Secondary School.
Back then, he was a right back defender but upon joining Centre Chiefs, Kowa converted him to a striker. His first game for Magosi was a local derby against rivals, Mochudi Rovers and Kowa said he had to stand for his young players as some of the seniors amongst them, the late Mochudi East MP, Isaac Davids felt they were not ready for the task.
However, Tlhowe scored a goal in his first game and this silenced the critics. He was then selected into the national team in 1978 and played in Zone 8 championships in Zimbabwe where he scored a goal. Tlhowe was eventually recruited by Township Rollers, who secured him a job at Botswana Telecommunications in Mahalapye. Kowa said the idea was to hide Tlhowe from Chiefs officials but he eventually returned to the house of Chiefs.
During the days, the players did not receive salaries but played for pride and despite this, Kowa said Tlhowe was a dedicated player and his skills attracted the attention of Jomo Sono at Orlando Pirates.
However, upon his arrival in South Africa, other teams tricked him and he signed for Mamelodi United and later played for Jade Easter Dynamos.
He later returned to Botswana where he also played for Gunners and later joined Kowa at Flamengo where he retired from active football and formed a team called Pula Masters. Other than football, Tlhowe worked for IGI Botswana as an insurance underwriter and the company was taken over by Botswana Insurance Company and he worked for the company until his retirement.
Tlhowe is survived by his wife and eight children and four grandchildren, some based in South Africa. One of his famous child is Jerome Ramatlhakwane.