Only a few months are left before the Confederation of African Football (CAF) club competitions start. Botswana will be represented by Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Football Club and Ecco City Green, both fondly dubbed ‘the Meat Boys’ as they are sponsored by the Botswana Meat Commission.
BMC is from the Southern part while Ecco City is from the north. In the country’s history, Notwane and Township Rollers are the only local clubs to have made meaningful impact in African competitions. Even though they did not go far, they performed far much better than others. Notwane reached the last 16 in the mid 90s while last year Rollers were just one step away from reaching the group stages of the African Champions Cup. After defeating a Seychelles team, Rollers made history by defeating a powerful Zambian team, Zesco United. Botswana teams have never had it easy against Zambian sides. Rollers eventually lost by a narrow margin to Interclube of Luanda. Early next year all eyes will be on ‘the Meat Boys’, Ecco City Green and BMC and Batswana will be watching with hawk eyes how the two teams will faring in the competition. Ecco will be making their debut in continental competitions while BMC had a try of it in 1996. They won the first game against Royal Lesotho Defence Force by an aggregate of 4-2 only to be heavily humiliated by a South African top side. BMC lost to South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns by an overall margin of 7-1. They lost 3-0 in Gaborone before Sundowns rounded off with a 4-1 score line at Oodi Stadium. The team that stands a chance to do well regardless of their opponents is BMC.
Provided BMC do not lose some of their industrious players in the coming transfer window they stand a better chance. Most of their players have been active in international football and that is already an advantage. Left backs Tumisang Sekanonyane and Mosimanegape Ramohibidu are regular members of the national Under 23 team that is currently fighting for a place for next year’s Olympics in Beijing. Alex Matshameko is another invaluable player who can make a meaningful impact. Before national Coach Rowe came in, Matshameko was, on several occasions, given a chance by Rowe’s predecessor Jelussic Vesselin. BMC’s assistant coach, Keitumetse ‘Pio’ Paul, is also an experienced man in both international club and national competitions. In the years 1993-97 when Paul played regularly for Township Rollers, the team was busy in international competitions.
Unfortunately for Paul, Rollers were always eliminated in the preliminary stages. Some of the teams Paul played against were Eleven Men in Flight of Swaziland, Black Africa of Namibia and Kabwe Warriors of Zambia. Eleven Men won 4-3 on aggregate while Black Africa and Kabwe Warriors won 5-2 and 4-2, respectively. Paul’s immense experience should also take the team where others failed. If records are anything to go by, Ecco City Green is in for a great challenge. Most of the local teams that participated for the first time have found the going tough. On the other hand, some of Ecco City players have also had international exposure at Under 23 and national level. Players like Tebogo Sembowa, Malepa Bolelang, Itumeleng Selepa are the ones that are called up regularly. Others, like Abednico Powell and Bashin Modisaotsile know the atmosphere of the national team. Ecco are also the third team in the Northern part of Botswana to represent Botswana in continental competitions after Tafic and Tasc.
Both teams might not have financial hassles because they are bankrolled by BMC abattoirs. Also with the experience of Barry Daka, Ecco might also pull some surprises. Daka has won several tournaments in his native Zimbabwe and at Notwane which he left unceremoniously a season and a half ago. Daka has already clinched the championship medal in his first year. He made history for Ecco because they became the first team from the northern part of the country to triumph after many years of failures by other teams.
The draw for the African continental competitions has not been conducted but is expected in early December.