Sunday, September 27, 2020

Rowe destroying national pride?

Zebras coach, Colwyn Rowe, has been in charge of the Zebras for 17 months now and is looking forward to achieve where his predecessors failed. The moment he arrived, he received a rude awakening when he lost to Zambia by a solitary goal in a COSAFA Castle Cup and, a little later on, Mauritania thrashed his team by four goals without reply for 2006 Africa Cup of Nations.

So far the best prominent achievement for him that put Botswana on the world map was a goalless draw against the defending champions, Egypt. That was actually the day the team showed character and almost went pound for pound with the experienced Pharaohs.

Although Botswana, in turn, registered victories against Burundi and Mauritania, the supporters’ fanfare was not there. And their numbers have started to dwindle and it was not surprising last year, in a friendly game against Libya, for many of them to give the Zebras their back and cheered the Libyans. And even in several friendly games the Zebras played, the team has not really impressed like was the case before.

There seem to be no killer instinct in the team and nothing seems to be driving the players to move forward. Maybe it could be because many players know that regardless of how mediocre they perform, they will always be in the team. Also certain players that are not playing regularly at team level continue to be selected. The typical example is Notwane’s talented midfielder, Dirang Moloi. Despite the fact that recently he has not been playing at his team, he always finds himself in the squad. Rowe has, however, come to the defence of Moloi saying he is a rare germ and will not entertain leaving him out.

“I tried to speak to Notwane about Moloi but I always get a different story from what he tells me. But I have to say Moloi is a talented player than most players here in Botswana and the Zebras need to have him and that’s’ why I continue to select him,” said Rowe at a recent press conference before the Zebras left for CHAN tournament in Zambia.

For some time, Rowe has also been using the same players most times every instead of giving others a chance like his predecessor, Jelussic Vesselin, did. Vesselin tried many players, some of whom people thought were not national team material, who ended up developing into excellent players. A typical example is left back Ernest Amos who, after getting a chance, never looked back and improved with almost every game he featured in.

For Rowe, many thought he would not have big challenges, unlike Vesselin, because a path had already been prepared for him at the Under 23s, who last year performed beyond many people’s expectations.

Rowe used regular players against two friendly games against a development team from South Africa and the performance was not satisfactory at all. South Africa used players mainly from the lower divisions and some from their Under 20s.

Currently, in the CHAN tournament that Botswana played against Zambia, Rowe used regular players while Zambia used their Under 20 and their Under 23 players. Also, despite the unconvincing victory, Rowe was over the moon. He defended himself saying he has given many players a chance and is continuing to do that.

“As far as I am concerned, I have given many players a chance and I am still doing it. I am surprised many people say I do not but I do. Look at the current team; there is Noah Maposa, Moreetsi Mosimanyana and Raphael Nthwaane. Is that not giving other players a chance?” he said.

Rowe might have called such players to camp but he rarely uses them. Maposa only managed to get a chance after first choice goalkeeper Modiri Marumo left for Egypt. That meant Rowe had no choice, especially in games that do not fall under the FIFA calendar.

For Mosimanyana, he only played in two games as a substitute in a game against a second string Mozambique team at a tournament in Swaziland recently. He also was, again, brought in as a substitute against Zambia in the second half of the same tournament.

If Rowe claims to be giving many players a chance then why are players like Mompati Thuma, Khumo Motlhabane, Ernest Amos, Ndiapo Letsholathebe, Joel Mogorosi, Nelson Gabolwelwe and Boitumelo Mafoko always in the team?
The Englishman has also for some time been criticised for not attending Premier League games to spot new talent and follow up on the progress of his players. Some football experts say this could be the reason why his team is rarely changed.

Vesselin, on the other hand, was normally seen at most games around the country and sometimes he was spotted watching lower division games.
Rowe has also since said most grounds are not safe for him compared to the National Stadium.

Additionally, since Rowe took over, indiscipline seems to have taken root. Three players have so far been on the wrong side of the coach. First, it was Ecco City anchor man, Malepa Bolelang, who Rowe sent back for what was said to have been late arrival at camp.
Then it was Moemedi ‘Jomo’ Moatlhaping who, at one stage, exchanged words with the coach through the press.

Then just recently, it was Centre Chiefs prolific goal scorer, Jerome ‘Jay Jay’ Ramatlhakwana. Rowe gave him the boot from the camp after he allegedly had a tiff with another player.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.