Saturday, September 25, 2021

Good times ahead for Zebras?

Botswana has for the past few years managed to produce good players who, in turn, made an integral part of the senior national team, the Zebras. Such players even managed to catch the eye of teams outside Botswana, especially in the South African Premier League.

Even though some players in the 90s tried their luck in the South African Premier League, they did not do so in numbers like today’s crop.

The player who epitomized Botswana players movement to South Africa in recent years was Diphetogo Selolwane who currently plays for University of Pretoria.

Then followed the likes of Mogogi Gabonamong, Phenyo Mongala and Moemdi ‘Jomo’ Moatlhaping.
About two years ago, the trio of Mogakoldi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele, Kabelo Dambe and Ofentse ‘Size 10′ Nato. What is interesting is the fact that the three players played together in the junior teams until the senior team and finally made it outside Botswana.

This was an achievement compared to previous players because they came from different developmental teams. What can also be taken note of is that when they were still playing for the Under 17s, they were heavily humiliated by their South African counterparts in the African Youth Championships. They lost 6-0 and many people dismissed the team, saying it had no future then.

The question now is did these players move to South Africa by luck because their youth teams achieved little and could this be a signal that Botswana’s senior team would in the near future be a force to reckon with?

Before them, the Botswana Under 17s, of which Selolwane was part in 1995, qualified for the African Youth Championships in Mali.

Also this year, Botswana’s Under 17 played at the African Youth Championships that were staged in Morocco.

Under 17 coach, Kagiso Kobedi told Sunday Standard that the three players are playing in South Africa on merit. He added that there are many factors that made the trio to move to South Africa almost at the same time.

“If you closely look at these players, they were together for a very long time compared to the previous teams. They have been together from 1998 during the time of schools of excellence in Jwaneng and they latter went to Artesia. I foresee a situation of the senior team benefiting heavily,” he said.

Kobedi added that the players had international exposure at a very young age, especially in the regional COSSASA Games where they played against Southern African countries. He emphasized that staying together for a long time coupled with teaching them basics and technique developed them into greater players they are today.

“In football there are no short cuts, if we do the right things, results will come up. Being vigorous and continuously developing players will help our country dearly in the long run. Our Under 17s just came from the African Youth Championships and this is all due to the seriousness of developing and nurturing their talent. I can tell you if we can do more, we will be untouchable in the future,” he said.

Kobedi added that if more coaches could be mobilized and got involved in the development of football, youth teams would do well and benefit the senior team. Kobedi said the main stumbling block to develop players further is the fact that Premier League teams rarely use young players. He said sometimes it is shocking to see teams fighting for much older players while disregarding the younger, upcoming footballers.

“I think the Botswana Football Association should come up with legislation to force teams to have a certain quota for young players. It does not make sense for big teams to sign young players and then not use them,” he said.

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