Wednesday, September 23, 2020

“Tokyo here we come” ÔÇô The Mares

By Anita Rannoba

“I never thought you ladies can play so beautiful football. You play better than the boys,” Botswana Football Association (BFA) second vice president Marshlow Motlogelwa gushed.

Like the many local supporters who had thronged the National Stadium to cheer the local lasses as they started their Tokyo 2020 journey with a 1 ÔÇô 0 win over Namibia, the BFA second vice president had perhaps finally realised ‘The Mares,’ as the team proudly and loudly introduced itself to him, are the real deal, the future of Botswana football.

For much of their match against the Namibians, ‘The Mares’ had controlled the game with a disciplined show of grit, flair and good football to boot.

While there were not as many goals as the local supporters could have expected, mainly due to profligacy of ‘The Mares’ frontline more than it could have been their opponents defensive work, the only goal which came on the 81st minute was worth the wait.

The goal, which came through the boot of Refilwe Tholakele was just as explosive as the excitement of the supporters, and it was worth winning any match any day.

Receiving the ball yards outside the Namibian penalty area, Tholakele, as if listening to the supporters who in unison called her to pull the trigger, looped her ball over the Namibian goalkeeper, sending ‘The Mares’ supporters into ruptures. Perfect goal, perfect start.

“This win is for Batswana, we appreciate you all,” stand in coach Alex Malete declared. And it could as well have been for their head coach Gaoletlhoo ‘Ronaldoh’ Nkutlusang who could not be with them due to family bereavement.

“We could have won with more goals but we were failing to hold the ball. All in all, I am concerned about our finishing and we will have to work on it as we go for the second leg, ” Malete observed. 

He highlighted that having now played Namibia, they are now aware of the weakness of their opponents and they know where to press and where not to press. He expressed optimism that this should not be much of a big obstacle as they are sure of a win. 

The win over Namibia would have lifted ‘ The Mares’ mood a notch higher, with the ladies vice-captain  Nondi Matlhasela having indicated, prior to the match, that they are prepared and ready to fight. She had hinted that the morale in the camp was high and they will do all they can to win.

For his part, the Namibia Gladiators head coach, Brian Issacs said while the team had disappointed him, he had hope that the second leg they will play with confidence. 

“I am not happy about anything about my team, they have disappointed me. Congratulations to Botswana for a good performance,” said Issacs

If the mares manage to defend their win against Namibia they will lock horns with their hoodoo team, the Banyana Banyana of South Africa. 

But if the number of supporters who came to watch their encounter with Namibia is anything to go by, ‘The Mares’ will take solace in that Batswana are willing them on.

“You realise that our men national teams have been knocked out of major competitions. You are now our sole representatives and the whole nation is rallying behind you,” said Motlogelwa.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.