Saturday, May 8, 2021

Futsal: A panacea for Botswana’s football development headache?

For many years, successful footballing countries in South America like Brazil, Uruguay and others have used five-a-side football tournaments, known as Futsal, to develop their top football talent.

In Brazil, a country regarded as the most successful footballing nation in the world, star players like the legendary Pele, Ronaldo and the highly skilful Garrincha, used Futsal to hone their skills.
Since then, many countries, among them Spain, Portugal, Italy and Germany, adopted Futsal to develop their talented players. Just at this World Cup alone, Batswana watched in awe and envy as stars like Neymar, Oscar and David Luiz, who are products of Futsal, strutted their stuff on the world stage.

Also shining were the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo as well as the Spanish duo of Xavi and Andres Iniesta, who all credit Futsal for their development. In light of this, many countries are now looking at using Futsal to hone and develop talent.

In Botswana, however, the idea is yet to catch fire, though it has been touted as a solution to the country’s football development crisis. According to Botswana Football Association (BFA) Technical Officer, Philemon Makhwengwe, the association has for a long time tried to sell the idea to stakeholders, but no one has shown interest yet. Makhwengwe, whose office is tasked with development of football in the country, says he tried to kick-start Futsal when he took office, but no one bought the idea.

“As a matter of fact, during that period we visited many schools to sell the idea. We also inspected some of the halls around the country and in Gaborone in particular to assess whether they can be used for Futsal,” the BFA Technical Officer explained.

Makhwengwe believes that as a tool for talent development, Futsal is the best way to go as it gives exponents the necessary skills to think outside the box.

“The benefit of Futsal is that players keep in contact with the ball for very long spells during the game. Because it is also played in tight spaces, kids who engage in this kind of game gain much needed ball control skills and also learn how to get themselves out of tricky situations when they are cornered,” he said.

However, as with other sport grassroots development programmes, the idea could not take root because stakeholders, including local corporations, showed no interest in investing in such. According to Makhwengwe, while the BFA would have liked to do it on their own, the association does not have the financial muscle to solely carry out such a big project. The BFA Technical Officer says the issue of lack of support from the corporate world is so severe that even some of the development programmes that have produced some of the current Zebras’ players like the Schools of Excellence have ‘nearly gone into oblivion.’ Despite the lack of resources, Makhwengwe says the BFA will continue striving to create an atmosphere where Botswana’s talent can be nurtured.

“Our aim, as has always been, is to create a world class development system. We also want to put in place a world class coaching system which can then produce world class players,” Makhwengwe said.
Clearly the BFA Technical Officer was bullish that they will continue striving to develop top talent in Botswana. Whether this will be possible, only time will tell. All what is left is for Batswana to wonder, as they watch Messi and company play in the World Cup final, whether Futsal could have given Botswana a hope of producing starts of such top calibre.

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