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Page last updated at 08:40 GMT, Thursday, 21 April 2011 09:40 UK

Botswana's Ramatlhakwane in club action after 18 months

By Mark Gleeson
BBC Sport, Cape Town

Botswana and Vasco da Gama Jerome Ramatlhakwane
Botswana's Jerome Ramatlhakwane is finally back in action at club level

Jerome Ramatlhakwane might be among the top scorers in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers but he finally played his first league match in almost 18 months at the weekend and scored again.

Ramatlhakwane has proven the hero of Botswana's surprise qualification for the 2012 finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, netting vital goals in games away against Tunisia and most recently in Chad to ensure the Zebras' progress.

But his form at international level has come despite a long lay off at club level, stuck in limbo in South Africa.

At the weekend Ramatlhakwane finally got to play, after a series of administrative foul-ups and a transfer dispute that sidelined him for months.

It took the 25-year-old just 14 minutes to score on his debut for Vasco da Gama in a relegation battle against Moroka Swallows in South Africa's Premier Soccer League at Soweto's Dobsonville Stadium.

The Cape Town club were two goals up but eventually lost the game 3-2 and will need more of Ramatlhakwane's goal scoring acumen if they are to stay up.

The newly promoted side sought to have Ramatlhakwane in their squad from the start of the season but their efforts were stymied by a contract dispute with fellow Cape Town club Santos, where Ramatlhakwane had spent the previous two season without much success.

It was only in January that the two clubs finally agreed a transfer but then Ramatlhakwane had to get a new work permit after changing clubs.

His application was made with a passport that was about to expire, so was rejected. When he got a replacement document, Botswana authorities had made a mistake with his date of birth and he had to go back to Gaborone and get another new passport.

It was with the new and, this time, correct passport that he travelled to Ndjamena to score the only goal of the game against Chad last month and secure Botswana's first ever trip to the Nations Cup finals.

Several weeks later he finally received a work permit and was cleared to make his debut on Saturday, where he made an immediate impact.

"It has been a long wait," sighed Vasco's chairman, Mario das Neves.

"I'm not actually match fit, I have some way to go before I get back to my best, but that will only come with playing games," added Ramatlhakwane.

"The technical team of the national side have been helping me a lot through all my struggles with my clubs, they have supported me and given me programmes to work on.

"That motivates me to do well because most national coaches, if you are not playing for a club, they forget about you and don't select you, but Stanley Tshosane is not like that.

"He believes in me, I can see it. Why else would he keep selecting me despite everything!"

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see also
Botswana aim to finish on a high
28 Mar 11 |  African
Botswana fans celebrate
27 Mar 11 |  Africa horizontal
Botswana qualify for Nations Cup
26 Mar 11 |  African
Botswana close in on Nations Cup
24 Mar 11 |  African
Botswana beat Togo to remain top
05 Sep 10 |  African
2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers
10 Apr 10 |  African

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