Youth development is the backbone of success in football and without it there would not be any positive results. In Botswana, however, it looks like it is not being taken seriously, writes Sunday Standard reporter, Tshepho Bogosing.
For the past twelve months, Zimbabwean Premier League side, Caps United, transferred eight players to various Premier League teams in South Africa.
In contrast, Botswana players are finding it tough to break into the professional ranks in South Africa.
Just this past week, Botswana’s most prized asset, Phenyo Mongala, was on the verge of being loaned to another team because his club, Orlando Pirates, believe they have more capable players than him.
Most football analysts in the country believe that the reason local players do not easily make it in the professional ranks is because of ailing development structures in the country.
Currently, there are only two Premier League teams that are renowned for their commitment to youth development in this country.
The teams are Notwane and Uniao Flamengo Santos and every time the transfer window approaches they develop butterflies in their bellies because vultures are always hovering around their players.
Most players in the Premier Leaguer started their club football at the two teams but, because of inability to keep them, other teams end up enticing them with better offers.
The so-called big teams in Botswana do not have strong youth development projects despite always winning major trophies in the country.
Former Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Notwane official, Segolame Ramothwa, told Sunday Standard that the main problem with youth development is that there is no strong policy from the BFA that would guide the teams around the country.
He said that teams could utilize this if there were, at least, a foundation or blue print from the mother body.
“Youth development in this country is a big problem and unless we really standup, we will always be behind many countries. Only Notwane and Santos are trying but other teams are not. But even if they were to try, they would still have so many challenges. All teams should have youth teams that play against each other every week,” he said.
Ramothwa added that once players are active throughout it would be easy for them to adapt at a higher level. He said if most teams in the premier league and regions had youth teams, they would then work hand in hand with neighbouring countries so that players are exposed at a young age. “Our neighbouring countries have good development structures, regardless of the economic challenges they face. Botswana should have a rapport with associations of countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa so that regions along border lines with those countries can have as many friendly matches as possible to expose the players. This can help develop the players mentally so that they are not easily intimidated when they are mature to enter big stages of soccer,” he said.
On his part, veteran coach and Flamengo Santos official, Matshediso ‘Sexton’ Kowa, told Sunday Standard that the main problem with youth development in Botswana is the teams themselves.
He said most teams like to reap where they did not sow, something he said is terribly bad for local soccer.
“If local teams did not have this mentality of poaching other teams’ players but develop their own, we could have vastly improved soccer in this country. In other countries, teams prioritise developing their own and if they are interested in other players from other teams they pay for that and here teams do not want that. We have for years been trying to address this problem of youth development but other teams are disappointing because they are not interested,” he said.
Kowa added that Botswana teams should borrow a leaf from other countries that have sound youth structures.
“If you look at a country like Zimbabwe, teams have good structures from young ages like seven and that is why there are so many Zimbabwean players in the South Africa Premier League. Those guys are serious while we are not,” he said.