Last year for the first time in history, Botswana’s national Under 23 made international headlines for their impressive performance. They prevailed where little was expected and just like the senior national team, it was not surprising to see them commanding a large following. The stance from the Under 23 looks set to be consistent in the coming years, if the national Under 20s are anything to go by and bearing in mind that they are the ones who will feed the Under 23 for the 2011 All Africa Games and 2012 Olympics. The current national Under 20 team might prove to be one of the best youth teams this country has ever produced.
Last year, during the COSAFA tournament in South Africa, they missed by a whisker to make it to the semi-finals after being narrowly beaten by the hosts.
Last week, during a friendly game against their South Africa counter parts in Itsoseng, just outside Mafikeng, they left their trade mark. Although they managed to hold South Africa to a two all draw, most South Africans supported the young Zebras who showed little respect for their opponents. What was even more interesting was their attacking ability using either wings and penetrating through the midfield. Also, only a fraction of the team plays in the Premier League while the rest play in the lower divisions.
South Africa, on the other hand, had more than three quarters of the players playing in their Premier League.
The only known players in the national Under 20 are Extension Gunners’ speedy winger, Kgololo Leteane, and Gaborone United’s industrious striker, Ntesang ‘Mirror’ Simanyana. Leteane has been Gunners revelation this season and has even gone to the extent of scoring vital goals for the team. Although he is tall, his height looks to be giving him little problems with his speed. Simanyana, who just joined GU from Molepolole side, Masitaoka during the past transfer window, has also proven to be a rare germ. Every time he steps in the midfield, there is mobility. He might be short but he is tough and it is not easy to dispossess him and several Gaborone United goals are created by him, mainly because of his defence splitting passes.
Another Premier League player, who seems to be improving with every game he plays, is Township Rollers striker, Aubrey Kebonnetse. He scored both goals against South Africa in Itsoseng and is rarely given a chance at Rollers. What looks set to make him a good striker is his ability to take on the defenders and his aggression, something that lacks in most of the local strikers. For instance, against South Africa, he scored the first goal through a powerful header from a cross. He scored the second one after receiving a ball in the middle of South African defenders, but he managed to take a shot leaving them sprawled on the tuff.
Other enterprising players in the team are Notwane’s duo of Kenamile Mani and Galabwe Moyana, and the goalkeeper from Naughty Boys, Basimanebotlhe Moilwa.
In the next transfer window, chances for Tlokweng United to keep their defender, Gaopatwe Seosenyeng, are very slim. What a tight marker! He rarely gives opposition strikers a chance to do their tricks and is a fearless man marker.
Co-coaches of the team, Teenage Mpote and Oris Radipotsane, are adamant that the team has potential to even surpass the previous ones. Mpote mainly emphasis that what catapults the current team is the fact that most of them have been together for a long time.
“Two years back we won gold at the Zone VI competitions with this team and then they were the under 17. Now, some of these players are playing in the elite league and are gaining invaluable experience, and I am not seeing anything getting in our way, especially for the upcoming Africa Championships,” he said.
Radipotsane added that the team even stands a good chance to make it for the prestigious tournaments provided they are given all the necessary support.
The road to the African Championships is, however, not easy. They have to play Namibia in a two legged encounter. They played the first one on Friday and will conclude the last one in a fortnight. The winner between both teams will play against Gabon. From there the winner will face Mozambique, Reunion or South Africa.
Reunion has to play Mozambique and the winner will play against South Africa.