Botswana National Under 20 boys football team coach George Mogopodi has called for his team to be kept together as a unit to help ease their transition to the Under 23 national team.
Mogopodi’s call came after he witnessed his team give their most spirited performance despite succumbing to a 1 ÔÇô 0 defeat at the hands of neighbours South Africa
While it was expected that the team will lose by a large margin against their neighbours, the young Zebras held their own, but were undone by a 65th minute goal from Sibongakonke Mbatha.
“My boys played so well today and i am so impressed with their performance. Today, they played according to instructions but they could not convert. The same thing happened in our Lesotho game, where we conceded a last minute goal. However, I am happy we did not concede more goals as most people anticipated” he said.
Mogopodi then made a call for his team to be kept together to help them transit to the under 23 national team since their age ranges to 18 to 19 years.
“I recommend these boys to be kept and monitored more closely because they are the future of Botswana football. Most of them are approching twentees and they can make a good team” he added
The same sentiments were shared by Mogopodi’s opposite number from South Africa, Thabo Sinong.
Sinong who is also the assistant coach of the South African senior national team, said Botswana football can have a bright future ahead, but only if the current talent talent can be well nurtured in all aspects.
“Out of all the teams we played against, Botswana was a hard nut to crack. They are a very good side and they play good football. The Football association must monitor these boys closely,” he opined.
The display against South Africa was a far cry from the lacklustre displays the Mogopodi led team produced during their clash with minnows Swaziland and Lesotho.
Against Swaziland and Lesotho, games which they lost 2 ÔÇô 0 and 1 ÔÇô 0 respectively, Botswana could not only hit the target but were lethargic.
Losses to the two all but extinguished Botswana’s hopes of a podium finish at the tournament.
Speaking to the losses against the so called minnows, Mogopodi highlighted that lack of international exposure played a critical part in the team’s lacklustre performances.
“It is obvious that if you are going to play an international tournament without any friendly games, it is going to be hard. We however had no option but to give our best,” he said.
Given that most of the players are still students, the coach refused to point fingers at anyone for lack of friendly games.
“I don’t blame the Association for all this because most of these players had school commitments, they were writing exams hence our deprived performance in the tournament,” added Mogopodi.
With no friendly games to play, Mogopodi believes his team were robbed of a chance to test themselves against their international equals, something he believes could have been a morale booster going into the tournament.
“For most of these young boys, this was their first time to play international football and I believe they should be exposed to such games and atmosphere more often in order for them to adapt and acclimatize to such games” Mogopodi said.
Asked whether he expected such a tough contest from his opponents especially Lesotho and Swaziland, Mogopodi opined that given how serious these countries took football development, they could not be undermined.
“These countries are improving and they are playing good football, short quick passing game and I can’t take anything away from them. For us to improve, we also have to follow in their footsteps and take football development seriously,” Mogopodi explained.