Botswana’s national football team, the Zebras, is ready to fight at the coming Africa Cup of Nations to be co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial-Guinea in January.
This was revealed by Youth, Sports and Culture Minister, Shaw Kgathi, in Parliament on Friday.
“What I can tell you is that we are more than ready for the competition and hopefully we will do well,” he said.
Once dubbed the whipping boys of African football, Botswana qualified for their first ever tournament ahead of other strong countries like Togo, Cameroon and Nigeria.
With about two months to go before the tournament starts, many supporters are worried that Botswana might be the first team to pack their bags from the tournament due to inadequate preparations.
“Yesterday (Saturday) we played Nigeria and this coming week Niger,” Kgathi said.
He added that the team is also expected to play several friendly matches before the tournament starts.
Another disadvantage for Botswana is the exorbitant travel costs for ordinary supporters to travel to both Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Travelling there would require around P16 000 for each person. But Kgathi added that the government and the Botswana Football Association are doing all they can to assist.
“These games are not for free. For example, it is estimated the journey could cost P16, 000 per person plus additional costs, which would augur badly for the supporters. But we are not folding our arms but looking at ways of helping. We hope to mobilize supporters to attend the games in their numbers,” he said. “It is easier said than done.”
Kgathi was responding to South East South MP, Odirile Motlhale, who doubted the government and BFA intervention in funding Zebras and mobilizing supporters for this milestone qualification.
Agitated by what seems to be the government and BFA ‘go slow’ involvement into Zebras’ achievement, Shoshong MP Phillip Makgalemele moved a question in parliament for the funding of the Zebras, including their supporters whose presence and cheers could stimulate the team’s performance.