The most memorable moments for Botswana football were in 1995 and 1997 when the national Under 17s qualified for the African youth championships in Mali.
The team performed dismally as they only managed to score a goal in the opening three games.
After Botswana’s early exit, the results were dismissed by some soccer pundits saying there was no way Botswana could have made it because they qualified in the boardroom and not on the pitch. Botswana was given a bye to the next game after Zambia was booted out for using over-aged players.
Zambia had beaten Botswana by an aggregate of 6-1. In the following game, Botswana beat Malawi by an aggregate score of 2-1 to make it to Mali.
Botswana would also host the tournament two years latter but the performance was horrendous. They lost all their three opening games to Egypt, Ivory Coast and Mali and managed only a goal.
Since then, it has been difficult for local teams to make it to the continental championships. The only team that nearly made it was the national Under 23 who lost, overall, 4-0 to South Africa last year. It was the game that determined which of the two sides made it to the All African Games.
Another date with the South Africans has now been set for the national Under 20s.
The two-legged encounter will start on September 27 in Gaborone. The overall winner between the two sides will make it to Rwanda next year where the African Championships will be held.
Botswana has, for a long time, struggled against South Africa at youth level. Be it the national Under 17, 20 or 23, and even the senior national team, the South Africans always find it easy with Botswana. Botswana appears to be facing an uphill battle because the South African team has, of late, been in vigorous training.
Several of the South African Under 20 players were drafted into the developmental squad that won the COSAFA tournament recently.
And also, several of the South African Under 20s are doing duty for several top teams and the Premier League is currently in full swing while the premier league here in Botswana is yet to start.
Botswana meets South Africa after beating Namibia and Gabon. The young Zebras beat Namibia by an aggregate of 2-1 and Gabon 2-0, respectively.
Despite the mammoth task the team faces, co-coaches of the team, Mogomotsi ‘Teenage’ Mpote and Oris Radipotsane, are optimistic for Botswana to make history. Mpote has since told Sunday Standard that they have played the South African team before and know them very well.
“We played with the current South African team just from BISA competitions to COSAFA. And, as you might be aware, we also once played a friendly game against them before our Namibian game. At BISA we beat them and they managed to beat us in COSAFA although they won in the last few minutes after one of our players was sent off. In a friendly game, we drew with them and you can see that this is going to be a closely fought encounter but we are optimistic to do well,” said Mpote in a recent interview.
Some of the players for the national Under 20 have been in the Premier League for some time while others have just joined the ranks. To date, Kgololo Leteane of Gunners is the most experienced because he already has spent two years there while Ntesang Simanyana of Gaborone United has one.
Leteane is a renowned left winger who terrorizes the defence with his pace and skill.
Simanyana, on the other hand, is the engine in the midfield with his second-to-none mesmerising skills. His strong physique is an added advantage.
The new kid on the block is undoubtedly Mogakolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele. He has just been promoted to Uniao Flamengo Santos first team from their youth team. He was the leading goal scorer for this year’s Coca-Cola Cup.
Ngele also led his school, Naledi Senior, to the Coca-Cola championships where he also emerged as the leading goal scorer.
Aubrey Kebonnetse of Township Rollers is the vital cog of the team because he is the leading goalscorer for the team and scores in almost every game in which the Under 20s play.
Although not always given the nod into the Rollers playing line-up, he is deadly once he dons the national team jersey.
Other vital members of the team are the likes of Gaopatwe ‘Shoes’ Seosenyeng (BDF XI), Pako Lekgari (BMC) and Galabwe Moyana (Notwane).