The last time Botswana hosted a major football tournament was in 1997 when the Under 17 African championships were played in our shores. Unfortunately, Botswana performed dismally, losing all three opening matches. In one of the matches the team lost heavily by seven goals without a reply in front of then President, Sir Ketumile Masire.
But all was not lost. Hosting the tournament proved to be a fruitful exercise for Botswana because it helped us to discover several good players. The players who emerged from the U-17 Africa championships eventually graduated to the senior national team and helped it to make its mark in the African continent. 15 years after Botswana’s disastrous showing at the U-17 Africa championships, the Zebras qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) for the first time in history. Two players especially stand out from that team of 1997; Mogogi Gabonamong and Mompati Thuma.
Gabonamong was to become one of the few local players to ply their trade in the money spinning South Africa Premier League. With many benefits associated with hosting major tournaments, among them development of players and acceleration of infrastructural development, it was expected that the Botswana Football Association (BFA) would continue with the legacy of 1997 and bid for other youth tournaments like Under 20 and eventually Afcon. Under Phillip Makgalemele, BFA tried to bid for 2010 Afcon, but was greatly undone by lack of government support. Back then there was no strong bidder and Angola won the bid to host the tournament. Meanwhile, former BFA official, Segolame Ramothwa, has made it clear that hosting tournaments of any magnitude is very important for the country. He urged the BFA to start agitating to host more tournaments as that could foster football development.
“We once hosted Under 17 and learned something. We once tried to host Afcon 2010, but we failed because government could not give us the support as required by the Confederation of African Football. Personally I believe Botswana should try to bid for Under 20 African championships, which would pave way for later hosting Afcon in future,” he said.
Another football official took a swipe at the BFA, accusing them of being lax about football development and saying they do not take football development seriously by failing to bid for major African tournaments.
“Hosting a tournament shows that the leadership is serious about driving football development. Clearly our current leaders don’t care about development. Just tell me any development effort they have made since coming into office. They should bid for major tournaments to prove that they are serious about development,” he said. Efforts to speak to the BFA proved futile by the time of going to press.