Sunday, March 7, 2021

Butler’s first real test as Zebras’ mentor

Butler’s confidence since being appointed the Zebras’ mentor in February, replacing Stanley Tshosane, has brought a lot of hope to football followers in the country. He has never hidden his philosophy of attractive and entertaining football, something which has convinced football followers that he knows what he is doing. He started his tenure on a high note as his side drubbed hapless South Sudan 3-0 in an international friendly game which was played at the national stadium in Gaborone. The previous coach, Stan Tshosane, has always came under fire for “parking the bus” but he argued that Botswana does possess enough quality to launch an onslaught against African powerhouses.

But Butler thinks differently. In the numerous interviews he conducted since coming to Botswana, the Englishman has always said Botswana has the requisite talent to be up there with the best in the continent. Commentators believe he has been misled into believing that he can go for an attacking format in competitive games, and the Englishman will get a chance to prove his philosophy when he travels to Bujumbura next weekend. The match will be played in front of a hostile crowd at the 22,000 seater stadium. The Zebras go out there with full knowledge that nothing less than a draw would put them at an advantage ahead of the second leg on June 1.

Butler has assembled a relatively new squad consisting mostly of players under 23 years old, prodding doomsayers to posit that lack of experience might be his main downfall. The Zebras were embarrassed 3-0 by South African Premier League side Platinum Stars on Thursday afternoon in Rustenburg. Despite the shocking result, Butler still believes he has a squad that will emerge out of Burundi without bruises. The game will be the first real test for Butler’s tactical acumen.

“I see a lot of enthusiasm in the group and there are good characters out there. We need young and enthusiastic players who are willing to learn,” he said in an interview with Botswana Television (Btv).

Butler has also come under fire for abandoning more experienced players in favor of youth, but he is confident that he has chosen players who will represent the country with pride. He recently pointed out that he has no qualms with sending an 18 year-old into the deep end, so long as that 18 year old is satisfactorily brilliant. He is also not worried by the fact that the Zebras did not see enough play ahead of their grueling encounter in Bujumbura on Sunday.

“I’ve always concentrated on my players and team. If you focus on the opposition you lose focus,” the Zebras tactician said.

Former Zimbabwean international Fabian Zulu argues that the Zebras do not have the quality to overpower the Swallows on Sunday.

“The current Zebras’ squad lack international exposure especially in defense which would work against them. It will not be an easy game out there because you need players who have a strong mentality,” said Zulu.

He pointed out that as much as Butler believes in youth he should have mixed them with experienced campaigners who would guide them when the going gets tough. The last time the Zebras visited the Burundians was in March 2007 during the 2008 Afcon qualifiers and the home side recorded a slim 1-0 win. Due to the civil war which was ongoing at the time, the match was played in neighboring Kigali, Rwanda. Tonight the Zebras will get a chance to bid their hordes of local fans farewell when they take on lightweights Swaziland at the national stadium in Gaborone.

Kickoff is at 7pm. From this game, Butler will choose the 18-man squad that will travel to East Africa. Ahead of tonight’s game, the Zebras will be without South African-based players who were involved in the last games of the Premier League season yesterday. The quartet of Joel Mogorosi, Galabgwe Moyana, Mogakolodi Ngele and Kabelo Dambe are expected to join the team in time for the trip.

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