The much anticipated fireworks glitz and glamour of soccer at the annual Kabelano Charity Cup on June 30 at the National Stadium might be diluted because of the engagement of the senior national team and the Under 23s who are scheduled to play on the same date when Kabelano is to be played. Although at the time of going to press the Zebras’ trip to Tanzania had not been confirmed, they are scheduled to play in the Commonwealth challenge tournament from June 29 to July 7. On the other hand, the Eight Nations tournament for the Under 23s in South Africa starts on June 27 and will take more than a week. In general, this means that most teams that will be participating might be without their cream of players who are also crowd pullers. Notwane and Gaborone United, Mochudi Center Chiefs and Township Rollers would be the hardest hit. Centre Chiefs might be without seven of their regular players who are playing for both the senior team and the under 23s. Rollers on the other hand might be without five of their regular players.
Players likely to be affected for Centre Chiefs are Noah Maposa, Gobonyeone Selefa, Boniface Makolo, Jerome Ramatlhakwane, Stanley Tsolope, Elijah Phiriepa and Pontsho Moloi. The players Rollers are likely to miss are Boitumelo Mafoko, Barolong Lemmenyane, Onalethata Tshekiso, Kaone Molefhe and Gabriel Bokhutlo. Even if the trip to Tanzania is cancelled, Centre Chiefs are likely to miss the services of six players while Rollers would miss two. This would give Notwane and Gaborone United an upper hand for the one day tournament in which the winners will pocket a whooping P100 000.
This would also mean that Centre Chiefs and Rollers’ chances to win the tournament would be dealt a heavy blow.
The two teams are facing the most difficult situation because national duty comes first and gives players much needed exposure.
Rollers managing Director, Somerset Gobuiwang, did not want to indulge himself into the issue. He said the ball is in the Botswana Football Association (BFA)’s court.
“As Rollers, there is not much we can say. Everything is within the BFA to solve this problem,” he said.
Centre Chiefs Public Relations Officer, Clifford Mogomotsi, is also a worried man, especially if the senior team finally makes it to Tanzania. He, however, said they are closely watching the proceedings closely.
“It is worrying because more than three quarters of our regular players are playing for both the national team and the Under 23s. We have hope that the under 23 players will make it for the tournament because their second game would be on Friday and will be over by 4pm. The BFA assured us that immediately after the game, the players would come for the tournament and then head back to South Africa after,” he said.
This, however, might affect the concerned players heavily because some would be forced to play four games in a space of three days. Also bear in mind that Botswana will be facing tough countries; the situation can have severe effects on both sides.
Botswana plays Cameroon on June 27, which will be a Wednesday, and China two days latter. Their third game will be against South Africa on July 1st, which will be on a Sunday. If Botswana finishes first or second position, they will proceed to the semifinals.
Meanwhile, the BFA’s Public Relations Officer, Ishmael Mooki, told The Sunday Standard that they had spoken to the affected teams but are still awaiting response from some of them. He expressed satisfaction that they would come to an amicable solution. Mooki also said the Zebras might not make it to Tanzania because they have been trying to communicate with the organisers of the tournament for about a week, but to little avail.
The top eight tournaments would be the most important for the under 23 team.
Their first game against Cameroon is one to watch. This is so because the two teams are in the same group for the Olympic qualifiers. This would give Major David Bright an exact picture of the Cameroonians. The game against China is also vital because it will be the first time Botswana’s Under 23s play a country from outside the African continent. China will also be looking for nothing short of a win because they are the fastest improving footballing country and the pressure of hosting the Olympics is also counting against them. As the hosts, South Africa, on the other hand, as the hosts would not want to be left out. Botswana are the underdogs in the group and if they progress to the next stage it would be a huge bonus for the team that, about a month ago, lost by a margin of 4-0 to South Africa.