Botswana’s national team, the Zebras, have probably given out their best ever performance for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). The team also bowed out in the last lap of the continental showpiece where they gave powerhouses, Egypt, a scare of their lives. Some pundits say that the team spoiled their likely maiden appearance at the finals by losing to minnows like Mauritania and Burundi. What now remains for the team is to prepare for the future tournaments like the 2010 World Cup, AFCON and the Council for Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA). Coach Colwyn Rowe has since made it clear that changes will be made to the team immediately after the Egyptian game provided the team does not make it to AFCON 2008 in Ghana next year. The Egyptian game was also probably last for some of the players mainly taking their age and performance into consideration.
Players like goalkeeper Modiri Marumo, Diphetogo Selolwane, Joel Mogorosi, Ndiapo Letsholathebe, Tshepho Motlhabankwe, Pontsho Moloi, Dirang Moloi Mompati Thuma, Malepa Bolelang, Khumo ‘Shoes’ Motlhabane, Michael Mohaladi and Mogogi Gabonamong should make the crux of the new team because of the experience and unique talent they posses.
Goalkeepers always mature with age and undoubtedly Marumo is so far the best goalkeeper in the country. Since he is also still based locally he can still play for a few more years to come. With his vast experience, he should be the one given the fort to lead the young team of which most of the players would be from the Under 23. Selolwane, on the other hand, has sacrificed a lot for this country, from the under 17 to the senior team. He is one player who should be concentrating on his club football at Jomo Cosmos in South Africa and retire from the national team. The problem would be that there is no other proven prolific goal scorer who can easily fill his shoes. He is one player who should also guard the striking force before calling it quits from the national team. Football is a short term career and, already, age is catching up with him.
Mogoosi just joined the professional ranks in Cyprus and has more years left. He is someone Coach Rowe would want to utilise in all the official games because of his pace and skill.
Letsholathebe, on the other hand, has age on his side and proved to be effective in the national team. He can play beyond 2010. Motlhabankwe can also play beyond 2010 and remains an effective member of Rowe’s team, especially taking into consideration his runs and powerful shots. The Moloi brothers, Pontsho and Dirang, are also future prospects. They are both young and Pontsho can open any impregnable defence while Dirang’s moves and touches in the midfield are marvelous to watch. Since the departure of Masego Nchingane from the national team, his position is yet to find a replacement and Dirang is tipped to be the one.
Thuma is undoubtedly the best player in the Mascom Premier League and his work rate is also awesome. The brilliant display by Zebras defence is mainly because of the man from Nata. His height also gives him an advantage because most of the aerial balls are his and his tackles are the envy of aspiring defenders. Since breaking into the Zebras three years ago, he rarely misses a game. He does not get injured easily and, at the age of 26, he can play up to 2010. For the Zebras not to have him in the starting lineup might be suicidal for the coach. Most of the upcoming defenders are shorter compared to him. Age is also catching up with Motlhabane and Rowe should use him to guide upcoming youngsters. He has a unique ability of playing in almost any position in defence.
Mohaladi and Mogogi also sacrificed a lot for the country. They are the ones who also should concentrate at their club football but their services are needed as destroyers. Many people think Boleleng has never really been given a chance while others say he has not utillised the little chance he is always given. Bolelang’s main undoing might be the fact of being a slow developer but once he is on top of the game he is deadly and deserves chances. At the end of the day, it is the coach’s decision that is final. But Rowe would have to think twice about the following players for the future team. Nelson Gabolwelwe, Ernest Amos, Boitumelo Mafoko, Keoagetse Radipotsane and Onalethata Thekiso.
Gabolwelwe played for the Zebras for a long time and should quit for good. He has been the coaches’ preference for many years but his pace has dwindled a bit and he easily loses possession. Amos is also one of the great left backs in the country, but his main undoing is his inability to easily use the right foot.
He has also lost a bit of pace and once faced with fast paced strikers, he has problems. He has already made a name for himself, especially by taming dangerous strikers and it is time he gave youngsters, like Mosimanegape Ramohibidu a chance. The chance that Radipotsane blew in Egypt would probable have sent Botswana to their maiden appearance in Ghana next year. That opportunity might also serve as his last straw in the national team. Radipotsane, like Mafoko, have not really been commanding in the midfield and they might find themselves on the sidelines in future call ups. Thekiso is one striker who has also been given ample chances but is yet to score.
With age catching up with most these players, Rowe should scout for more new faces.