In many countries, a host of players easily break into the senior national teams at very young ages. Such players end up being eligible to play for almost all the youth teams.
Currently, in Brazil, there is a red-hot star, named Alexandre Pato. Pato broke into the Brazilian national team early this year at the age of 18 at the time they were playing against their arch rivals, Argentina.
Pato did not just participate in the game but his goal separated the two teams and, for that matter, his goal was classical.
Stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) and Theo Walcott (Arsenal) also broke into their senior national teams at the ages of 18.
In his first games, Rooney played tremendously and scored important goals for England at Euro 2004.
Just recently, Walcott scored a hat-trick when England demolished Croatia 4-1. By virtue of being talented while still young, such players end up not being used for youth tournaments, thus making them irrelevant to them and creating spaces for others.
On the other hand, what is happening in many countries appears to be the opposite for what is taking place in Botswana. It has proved to be difficult for a player who is 20 years old to make it into the national team.
Most players normally make it when they are around 24 years old. The only prominent player who made it while young was Mogogi Gabonamong and that was way back in 1998. For instance, only a fraction of the past national Under 23 players are in the national team, while most are a bit older.
Currently, the Zebras are facing an overhaul and that might create a bit of a void.
The only coach who tried to introduce Under 23 players in the senior team is incumbent Zebras’ coach, Stanley Tshosane. His predecessor, Colwyn Rowe, only preferred to use Dirang Moloi from the Under 23s. Extension Gunners coach, Daniel Nare, told Sunday Standard that it is just a question of youth development. He said that in Botswana players are developed when they are already old.
“That is of serious concern to our country and it is one reason we are always failing where it matters the most. In other countries, players are seriously developed from as early as five years while in Botswana it is from the ages of around 13, which is very late by football standards. Players like Ronaldo, Rooney and Pato made it into top flight football while they were very young because of excellent development programmes,” he said.
Nare also added that even Botswana’s good exports are signed on when they have only a few years of play left in them. Nare added that the question of youth development should not be left to the Botswana Football Association (BFA) alone but the teams should play a pivotal role.
He said only three teams, BMC, Uniao Flamengo Santos and Notwane have very strong youth structures and it has bore fruit not only for the teams but the country. Nare said the pitiful thing is that so called big teams just easily snatch away their players.
Nare’s words were echoed by BFA’s technical officer, Losika Keatlholetswe. He said it would take time for young local players to break into the senior national team. He, however, added that current youth programmes might make it possible in the future.
“Currently, we have several youth programs like ‘Re ba bona ha’, ‘School of excellence’, and ‘Orange youth tournament’. We currently have three programms at a go and definitely something will come up in the future,” he said.
Keatlholetswe also emphasized that what gives him hope is that several Under 20 players are already in the Premier League and are doing well.
“We have players like Mogakolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele (Santos), Ntesang ‘Mirror’ Simanyana (GU), Pako Lekgari (BMC) and several others. This obviously translates to the fact that something is happening on the ground and, may be in the future, we might have more good strong young players,” he said.