Former Fire attacker Dipsy Selolwane brought the curtain down on a fantastic near 20-year career this past weekend, playing in a testimonial match in his native Botswana with his first club Gaborone United against South African side Platinum Stars.
The Chicago Fire were fortunate enough to have a young, up-and-coming Selolwane part of its squad for three seasons between 2002-2004.
Speedy with a slight frame, the young forward wasn’t necessarily a main contributor in his time with the Fire – he played 37 competitive matches and only 11 of those were starts -- but former teammate and Fire assistant coach C.J. Brown remembered fondly the positive energy he brought to the club.
“He was such a happy guy,” Brown told Chicago-Fire.com Tuesday. “Always smiling, always working hard. We all worked hard but we enjoyed what we did and Dipsy was a great representation of that.”
“He wasn’t an everyday starter but he was reliable – you could count on him to come through with some magic.”
While Selolwane’s marks in league play weren’t overwhelming – he bagged three goals and an assist in 33 games – as Brown says, he made a memorable impact in cup play, scoring all-important goals in the team’s run to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final in 2004 as well as their participation in that year’s CONCACAF Champions Cup.
(C.J. Brown & Dipsy Selolwane embrace after the Fire defeated the Charleston Battery on August 25, 2004 / J. Daniel)
After a devastating 5-2 defeat in the first leg of the 2004 Champions Cup quarterfinal tie at Trinidadian side San Juan Jabloteh, Selolwane played the hero in upending the aggregate score line in the home leg a week later at Soldier Field.
Needing to score four goals in order to advance, things didn’t look good through the first 40 minutes as the away side bunkered in but second-year striker Damani Ralph opened the scoring in the 42nd minute.
After halftime, Selolwane took the reins, scoring on long-distance effort in the 51st minute before rounding goalkeeper Daurance Williams 11 minutes later to bring the aggregate score line to 5-5.
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The Motswana man also set up Fire captain Chris Armas for the 90th minute winner, advancing the club to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions Cup in an unforgettable 6-5 aggregate victory.
Later that season, Selolwane played hero again, scoring the lone 56th minute goal off a cross from Orlando Perez in the team’s 1-0 victory at the Richmond Kickers in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup on August 4.
Three weeks later, Selolwane would step up again in an Open Cup semifinal vs. the Charleston Battery at Naperville’s Cardinal Stadium. The game was made memorable for the near two-hourweather delay that halted the match at halftime and Fire fans would have to wait 107 minutes to see Selolwane head home Perez’s cross, sending the team to its fourth U.S. Open Cup final in six seasons.
“He wasn’t your main forward most of the time but every time you needed him, he stepped up and did the job,” said Brown.
The Fire fell 1-0 in the final to Kansas City off a golden goal scored by Igor Simutenkov and following the season Selolwane, along with teammate Evan Whitfield were traded to expansion Real Salt Lake for second and third round draft picks the next two seasons.
Selolwane’s move was made mostly to clear an international roster spot, of which teams only had four at the time.
(Logan Pause congratulates Selolwane on his golden goal vs. Charleston / J. Daniel)
After a short stay in Salt Lake, Selolwane returned to his home continent, playing with South African Premier League sides Santos, Jomo Cosmos, Ajax Cape Town, SuperSport United and Pretoria University.
Along with his club career, Brown remembered that playing for Botswana was very important to Selolwane.
“He was one of the few guys from his country to go and play abroad,” Brown said. “I know he’s a legend back home and hopefully part of that is because of his time here with the Fire.”
In total, Selolwane earned 42 caps and until very recently, his 16 goals were the team’s most scored all-time. Selolwane earned more fame by becoming the first Motswana player to score in a major international tournament, tallying from the penalty spot in the team’s 6-1 defeat to Guinea at the 2012 African Cup of Nations.
“I have great memories of Dipsy – his goals and his positivity. He loved playing the game and I’m happy to hear he’s finished his career in such a great way.”