Monday, June 14, 2021

From Russia with love

BY DUNCAN KGANGKENNA

The Botswana Football Association (BFA) is set to reap rewards from the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development (MYSEC)’s initiative to help it change the fortunes of the country’s senior national team.

Spurred by the well documented series of poor performance of the senior national team, MYSEC through its then Minister Thapelo Olopeng sent an SOS to Russia to help find a coach for the Zebras, and the request has since been approved.

In a letter dated January 25th 2019 and addressed to Olopeng, the Russian ambassador to Botswana, Victor Ivanovich Sibilev intimated that the European country has headed MYSEC’s request to support the BFA and will therefore be seconding a coach to drill the Zebras.

“Following your recent request from the MYSEC of Botswana regarding the assignment of the Russian football coach for training the national team, I am glad to inform that Russia side has considered this request,” so reads Sibilev’s letter.

“Russian Football Union is ready to propose a relevant candidate for this position if the Ministry provides us with information about appropriate conditions of his residence in Gaborone,” Sibilev said.

The Russian ambassador went on to request Olopeng to assist them with the name of a contact person within the MYSEC with whom the issue can be discussed further.

While the BFA has always refuted allegations they are looking for a coach for the Zebras, the news of the impending arrival of a Russian coach now puts in doubt the future of current gaffer Major David Bright.

Bright, who took over after the departure of Briton Peter James Butler was appointed coach in July 2017 on a three year contract.

His term at the helm has however not yielded the results the BFA would have hoped for as the team has failed to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals which will be hosted by Egypt from the 15 June to 13 July 2019.

Zebras is currently rooted at the bottom of Group I with a single point in the qualifying campaign, where it has been paired with Mauritania, Angola and Burkina Faso.

While a series of factors, including the alleged failure of the BFA to take proper care of the players’ welfare have been touted as causes for Zebras’ failures, Bright now seems the likeliest to be feel the axe for team failures.

Reached for comment, BFA spokesperson Tumo Mpatane confirmed that they once wrote to Russia to assist them with coach who will assist them to take their development programme.

“We were looking for people with technical knowhow who will come handy in taking the youth programme forward,” Mpatane explained.

The BFA spokesperson denied that they were looking for senior national team coach, insisting that at the moment, Bright is still the national team coach and his contract is left with one and half years.

Despite Mpatane’s denials, sources with the association are adamant that the BFA will be looking at the Russian to take over from Bright who it is suggested that his contract will be terminated upon finishing the AFCON qualifiers campaign.

The Zebras is left with only one game against Angola to finish the 2019 world cup qualifiers, and the game will be of no great importance as the team has already failed to qualify.

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