Botswana football has once again received a major boast from one of the commercial banks of Botswana, Barclays.
Barclays has forked out a massive P1 500 000 for the national Under 23 team for one year. The sponsorship comes at a time when the team shocked the world last year by defeating some of the stronger soccer nations. This sponsorship also means that two big national teams now have full time sponsors.
The senior national team, the Zebras, is currently bankrolled by cellular giants, Orange. When unveiling the sponsorship, Barclays Managing Director, Thuli Johnson, said they were delighted to be associated with football. He even expressed optimism that the money would help the team to perform even better.
“Definitely it is a great pleasure to be associated with football. But people must bear in mind that we are not new in football. Barclays sponsor the English Premier League and even here in Botswana we used to sponsor a top eight tournament. I hope the money will help our team to be a real force to reckon with. I also hope that one day some of the players in the team will end up playing in the English Premier League, which we are associated with,” he said.
Johnson also added that the impressive performance of the team led to their coach, Major David Bright, to become the first Motswana to coach in the professional league. Major Bright is currently coaching South African Premier League team, Cape Town Santos.
The Under 23s’ impressive performance all started last year during the qualifications for the All Africa Games. Botswana walloped Angola in the penalties following a two all draw in both encounters. Then followed the preliminaries for the Olympics where Tunisia was waiting. Botswana shocked the Tunisians by holding them to goalless draw in Tunisia and in Gaborone, Botswana won 1-0. The Tunisians had some of their best players in the second leg; players like their star striker, Yassime Chikaoui, but could not pass through a determined Botswana. The victory against Tunisia meant that Botswana qualified for the group stages for the first time ever.
After the Tunisian game it was the Sasol Eight Nations tournament in South Africa and Botswana won a silver medal. En-route to the silver medal, heavy weights like Cameroon, China and Ghana fell by the way side. As if that was not enough, Botswana was invited to the Four Nations tournament in China. The tournament comprised China, South Korea and Japan. Botswana won gold much to the shock of the Asian community. Although the team did not make it to the Olympics in Beijing, they did scare their opponents. Of the six games they played, the team did not lose a single game at home. They beat other African favourites Morocco and Guinea, 2-0 and 2-1, respectively, and drew with Cameroon.
Since the Under 23 tournaments are not perennial, there are concerns in the soccer fraternity on how the Barclays sponsorship is going to be effective. This, however, does not worry, Botswana Football Association’s Chief Executive Officer, Mooketsi ‘Tosh’ Kgotlele.
Kgotlele told Sunday Standard that they already have plans in place and want to build a solid team.
“Most of the players who did duty for the Under 23 will graduate to the senior team. That means paving the way for others. We currently have the under 20 and most of them will graduate to the national Under 23. We are going to try by all means for our team to be effective. We are going to organise more international friendly matches so that we are ready for the next All Africa Games and even the Olympics,” he said.
In the current national team, players who might make it to the next team are Kaone Molefhe, Gabriel Bokhutlo, and Kgololo Leteane. Other players who have proven to be ready are the likes of Edwin Moalosi of Township Rollers and Mirror Ntesang of Gaborone United.