Botswana’s national soccer team, the Zebras is set to play neighbours South Africa in the regional Confederation of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) tournament today (Sunday). Zebras made some progress after Butler assembled a relatively new team after replacing Stanley Tshosane as coach at the beginning of 2014.
Despite Botswana bringing a full strength squad to the tournament, the atmosphere in the camp is a bit somber following the sacking of assistant coach, Keitumetse ‘Pio’ Paul. South Africa on the other hand has brought third tier team and it remains to be seen how both teams will square it out when they clash. Although some of the South African players that have been brought to the squad are from the lower division, the incumbent South African coach, Ephraim Shakes Mashaba is renowned for turning ordinary players into house hold names. Players like Teko Modise who plays for Sundowns, and Kagisho Dikgacoi who plies his trade at the English Premier League are some of the players, Mashaba picked from nowhere and turned them into superstars.
Botswana coach, James Peter Butler seems to be a man in all out war and is unwavering in his resolution to win the tournament. However some Batswana have questioned why he opted for a full strength team rather than giving exposure to some of the players.
From all the meetings both teams had, Botswana have only defeated South Africa once in 2006 winning 7-6 in a penalty shootout at the National Stadium following a goalless draw. The hero of that match who saved a penalty that took Botswana to the next stage, Modiri Marumo is still part of the current squad. Since the inception of the COSAFA tournament, South Africa have won the tournament once and the team was then under the current coach, Mashaba. On the other hand, the tournament can serve as an inspiration for most Botswana players who are based locally. It can be an opportunity for them to market themselves in the lucrative South African Premier League.