Zebras’ head coach James Butler has appealed to Batswana to rally behind the national team, Zebras, as they take on Burundi at the Prince Louis Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura in the first leg match of the 2015 African Nations Cup. The Englishman believes that if the entire nation rallies behind the Zebras they will be able to pull off a positive result against Burundi today.
Football pundits have dismissed the 21-man team assembled by Butler for the Burundi encounter, saying it is made up of youngsters who lack international experience. But the Briton journeyman is oozing with confidence that his side can pull a surprise away from home.
The Zebras were booed by frustrated fans during the second half of their international friendly match against Swaziland at Lobatse Stadium on Sunday night. The local lads lost the match 4-1 before a paltry crowd. Butler and his charges were left with egg on their faces, but the tactician dismissed the thumping as a wake-up call. However, the coach has since appealed to the nation to support his team, saying they can only perform to expectations if they have the full backing of the supporters.
“It’s important for the fans to rally behind the team. Of course we want to win every game but that is very difficult. Nobody goes out there to perform poorly. People have to look at the bigger picture and see what we’re trying to do,” said Butler.
He insisted that he has picked a balanced squad that has what is needed to compete. After the 4-1 defeat to Swaziland, Butler called four more players to beef up the Zebras defense. But Musa Ohilwe of Extension Gunners, Bonolo Fraizer of Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Mogogi Gabonamong of Bloemfontein Celtic refused to report for camp. In response, Butler said he is not going to stress about players who don’t want to fight for their own country.
“I don’t believe in chasing players. I called some players for camp but they declined. It’s a crime for players to refuse to represent their country,” said Butler.
The Zebras mentor will also have to do without South African-based left-winger Galabgwe Moyana whose club Polokwane City is taking part in promotional play-offs. The Zebras lacked a killer punch against the Swazis and it will be interesting to see how they fare today. Zebras skipper Joel Mogorosi who plies his trade with South African side Bloemfontein Celtic was also oozing with confidence that they can pull a surprise win against Burundi.
“We’re taking this match seriously and we want to do our best for the country. Morale is sky-high and we have a rich blend of youth and experience. The youngsters who have come into the team have shown a lot enthusiasm,” he said.
Mogorosi was officially announced as the Zebras’ captain by coach Butler before they left for Burundi. He will be assisted by Township Rollers’ flying winger Sekhana Koko.
“It is an honor to be selected to lead the team. It shows that the coach has confidence in me,” said Mogorosi.
Tunisian referee Med Said Kordi will take charge of the game, assisted by fellow countrymen Arbi Al Mansuri and Herch Ramzi. Mohamed Ben Hassan will be the fourth official while Ugandan Charles Masembe will be the match commissioner. The match kicks off at 3.30pm (Botswana time) and the Zebras are expected to return home on Tuesday.