Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Last minute dilemma for Zebras

Botswana’s national soccer team, the Zebras, looks like they have another terrible challenge ahead of them for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.

The Botswana Football Association seems to have been sitting on their laurels because they knew that the qualifications were going to start at a very late stage.

The re-admission of Togo means that the qualifications will start in July, unlike previously where they were supposed to start in September.

Togo has been added to the group that comprises of Botswana, Malawi, Tunisia and Chad.
This also means two teams that finish as the best of the group will qualify. This has made things even more difficult for the Zebras because they have to square up with two of Africa’s leading countries that at one stage qualified for the World Cup.

In the meantime, the Zebras coach, Stanley Tshosane, had not selected his provisional team because he thought he had time, and he has to now select the team in haste.
In addition, there has to be preparations in the form of friendly matches, something that has proved difficult for Botswana in the past.

The technical officer of the BFA, Philemon Makgwengwe, has decried the situation saying it will affect the team. He said before Togo’s admission, Botswana knew that they would start their programme latter but now things have changed.

“All along, Togo knew that they might be admitted at any stage while Botswana did not expect our qualifications to start as early as in July. Definitely, this has affected us because we already had plans a few months before the qualifications start. But now we have to kind of start preparations now,” he said.

Botswana has never qualified for AFCON. Even this year, it looks like it will not be easy at all. Although Malawi has been to the past AFCON, Botswana beat them twice, in the 2006 AFCON and World Cup preparations.

The team that is a closed book to Botswana is Chad.
During the 2006 qualification, Botswana was in the same group as Tunisia and the latter always came out best.

In the first round, they crashed Botswana 4-1 away, while in the second round they beat Botswana 3-1 at the National Stadium. However, Botswana once beat Tunisia’s Under 23 in 2007 for the Olympic qualifications.

The bulk of that Tunisian team is the one that the current senior team is comprised of.
Togo has also not played Botswana but they are one of the big African teams and have stars around Europe.

Their renowned player is Emanuel Adebayor who plays for Manchester City in England.
Togo did not play at this year’s AFCON because the team was attacked by Angolan rebels when they entered the Cabinda enclave where the match was to be held. The team lost two of its members while others were critically injured.

Togo ended up withdrawing from the tournament and was subsequently suspended for the next two AFCON editions, something that attracted uproar from the international community.
The Confederation of African Football suspended the West African country saying there was government interference and FIFA ended up intervening.

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Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.