There is indeed no doubt that the Zebras’ journey will be treacherous one across Africa as they seek to make it to the Afcon tournament to be held in Morocco. The team has just made it into the group stages and are now pitted against tough teams in a group of death.
The top two teams automatically qualify while there will also be the third best from all seven groups.
The Zebras defeated both Burundi and Guinea Bissau in the preliminary stages and now they will meet Tunisia, Egypt and Senegal on a home and away basis.
While they have played both Egypt and Tunisia before, it will be the first time the Zebras will engage a Senegalese team that looks rejuvenated after few years in the wilderness.
Against Tunisia, the Zebras exceeded expectations, winning at home and away less than four years ago. In 2007, they played Egypt and drew before losing by a single goal in Cairo.
It was a significant result, given that the Pharaohs were the reigning Africa champions. Now the Zebras embark on a rough journey for 2015 bereft of several players who were the backbone of the team that qualified for 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
Some of these players, despite age still being on their side, have since called it a day. They include Mompati Thuma, Ndiapo Letsholathe Modiri Marumo, a trio that played for Zebras for a very long time, working up invaluable experience in playing for Africa.
Some coaches are now calling for these players to be included in the team because the upcoming matches will not only be tough but will be played short spaces of time, experience to take the team forward.
The trio played against Egypt and Tunisia and were outstanding. Against Egypt both at home and away, Marumo performed heroics, keeping the Pharaohs at bay and even ended up signing for Egyptian side, Haraas Elhodoud.
One coach who preferred anonymity told Sunday Standard Zebras coach James Peter Butler is a good coach but he needs to learn about the reality of playing on the African continent. “Botswana is in a group of death and if we are not careful we might not even pick a single point and as such we need a very strong team at all costs. Whether some like it or not, Zebras still need those players who are not in the team but are still active. Preferably Butler has to beef up the goalkeeping department. We have a good goalie, Kabelo Dambe, but he is not the first choice at his team in South Africa and his match fitness comes into question. As such Marumo has to be not just be called but used. He has impeccable experience and goalkeepers also mature with age,” he said.
The coach also added that all the players have played North African team before and have all it takes to and bring positive results.
Former Premier League coach, Stanley Mwaanga also called on the national coach to rope in experienced players. He said his current philosophy of bringing young players is commendable but it has to be compensated with experienced players.
“Definitely I believe if Botswana can prepare well they can also cause another upset by qualifying for 2015 Afcon. But the young players in the team have to be blended with experienced ones. Several players from the previous team are already back in the team but I still believe there are some who should still make it. Players like Thuma, Letsholathebe and Marumo are diamonds for Botswana and should not be left to lose their sparkle. Even their ages still allow them to play at big competitive level. I believe that if there are differences the players have with the Botswana Football Association, it can be solved,” he said.
Mwaanga also added that Butler should have a pool of players of up to 40 so that he has a healthy pool to draw on in time injuries and suspensions.