It is all ululations among many soccer fans in Botswana because Botswana has been drawn against South Africa for the qualifying matches for 2014 World Cup that will be hosted by Brazil.
Many Batswana are of the belief that since Botswana managed to beat the likes of perennial World Cup finalists, Tunisia, and 2006 finalist, Togo and subsequently making it to 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea nothing would stop them against South Africa.
The other teams in Botswana’s group are Central African Republic and either Ethiopia or Somalia.
On the other hand, the Development Officer of FIFA, Ashford Mamelodi, has warned that qualifying for the World Cup is a tall order that does not come easy.
He said Botswana did well to qualify for 2012 AFCON but it would be terribly tough for the World Cup.
“I believe it is a farfetched dream for us to dream of qualifying for 2014 World Cup. Of course, we are very happy that we made it to 2012 AFCON and we are praying for them to do well in the 2014 World Cup qualifying but the reality on the ground puts us on a darker side. 2014 is just three years from now and we should ask ourselves whether we have such players that can take us there,” he said.
Mamelodi said before any team can dream of qualifying for such big a spectacle, there should be a lot of development activities on the ground. He said, currently, there is not much that Botswana can bank on if they are to qualify for 2014 World Cup.
“Most of our players are ageing and the best they can go is up to 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. After that there would be a huge void that would need to be filled. But we do not have experienced youthful players who can immediately come in. Most of our youth teams are currently not active and that is a serious disadvantage. If you look at countries like Angola, they had strong youth structures and they managed to make it to the World Cup,” he said. Mamelodi said what put South Africa at an advantage is the fact that their Under 23 has already qualified for the All Africa Games to be held in Mozambique this year and they are even in contention for next year’s Olympics to be held in London.
“South Africa has a relatively youthful team that can play for many years to come and who have been together for sometime in the build up to the World Cup. Even their Under 23 are doing well, meaning that they are already prepared compared to us,” he said.
Mamelodi stressed that he would be more than happy if Botswana can make back to back qualifications. He said that would instill a sense of motivation for upcoming players and even all stakeholders involved running football to do even much better.
He also expressed optimism that if the current Technical Director of the Botswana Football Association, Sonnyboy Sethibe, can be given a chance he can turn around development structures of the country.
“There is no denying the fact that there is a lot of talent in this country that keeps on going to waste because we are not nurturing it well. If we can put structures in order, then we can achieve a lot of it and that can ensure that we are the untouchable force of African football,” he said.
Of the ten groups Botswana has been drawn in group A. Ten winners of the groups will square it up on a home and away basis and the five winners will automatically qualify to Brazil.