Wednesday, July 6, 2022

It might be time Botswana naturalises players

Saturday, January 28 is the day many Batswana would like to forget at all costs.

Botswana was humiliated 6-1, one of the highest scores in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) history. Many Batswana were expecting more from the Zebras, especially that Botswana was impressive in the qualifiers and was even the first team to qualify for this particular tournament.

The loss to Guinea has exposed many areas in which Botswana should work on if they are to compete vigorously at the highest level.

Most Guinean players were physically, tactically and technically stronger and easily overpowered the Zebras.

However, of particular interest is that several countries that are doing well have players who originate from other countries, something that Botswana does not practice.

Countries like co-hosts, Equatorial Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea have players who were born in other countries but were given citizenships to help their adopted countries do well. Equatorial Guinea is a major beneficiary because in almost all the matches they played in the group stages, most of their players originated from other countries.

Even some countries in Europe are benefiting from players that originate from other countries.
Some soccer pundits believe that it is about time Botswana naturalised players that would help the country seriously compete at high level. They say many countries are reaping the rewards while Botswana is not.

“If you look at countries like Portugal, France and Italy, they have immensely benefitted from that. France won the World Cup in 1998 with most players born of immigrant parents. Look at Equatorial Guinea now. They were just a hopeless team before the tournament but have naturalized the players and have already gone beyond the group stages for the first time in their history,” said Fobby Radipotsane.

Radipotsane added that the laws in this country are rigid and foreigners who can help sports in this country grow cannot do so.

“Some few years back I tried help facilitate Mohammed Chawila’s application to be granted citizenship of this country. By then I wanted him to represent Botswana at the national Under 23. It has been years and I do not think even to this date his application has been approved,” he said.

Radipotsane said the onus is now on the sports codes in the country to lobby the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC). He said BNSC will then court the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture who will in turn approach Parliament.

Radipotsane’s comments were echoed by BMC coach, Daniel ‘Chicco’ Nare who said naturalization of foreign players would give the country’s football a new dimension.

“Highly successful countries in sports like America are easily excelling because of foreigners. Immigration laws in those countries are not as hard as that of Botswana. Basketball teams and athletics, recruit mainly from West Africa and results are there for the world to see. We should do the same thing so that we are also a force to reckon with. If you look at this year’s Afcon it is probably Botswana and Zambia that are not using naturalized players,” he said.

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