The last nail in the former Zebras coach’s coffin was the goalless draw against Madagascar for World/Africa Cup of Nations qualifier matches. Many supporters at the Northern Stand, otherwise known as Pandamatenga, remained behind after the final whistle, chanting for coach Colwyn Rowe to quit because he was failing the nation.
Rowe had to be whisked to safety by some Botswana Football Association officials through the grand stands.
Anger had been brewing over time and the supporters utilised the goalless draw to express it. The supporters even went to the extent of saluting the Malagasy team that looked happy with the outcome.
Rowe appeared to have fallen out of favour with many people the moment he took charge of the Zebras, 22 months ago, to fill the big boots left by Jellusic Vesselin.
The first game was terrible for him as he received a rude awakening, a 4-0 drubbing away to Mauritania. A few weeks latter, Rowe started to launch a scathing attack on the media saying they always ask negative questions. The attack started when a radio journalist asked him about the situation in the team following reports of skirmishes over the always burning issue of players’ allowances.
A few weeks latter, he was also invited for an interview at a certain radio station. Somewhere along the way, he lost direction and, upon being directed, he accused the journalist of being not keen on punctuality. “You the people of Africa, what is wrong with you? Don’t you know how to keep time? I have been all over this building looking for you,” he said.
Rowe then went on, always accusing the media of being negative about him, regardless of his achievements that were there “on the table for everyone to see”.
What baffled many people was that Rowe comes from a country with the most vibrant media in the world, England. The English press is renowned for its notoriety of always invading life styles of celebrities, including soccer personalities. Former England coach and now with the Mexican national team, Sven Goran Ericksson, can attest to that.
Also from the day Rowe took over the Zebras, he looked more like someone who was keener on image protection and feared going for gambles.
It was like he was allergic to giving many players a chance to prove themselves for the national team. He would call only a few new faces into camp but would drop them for the game, and using the same old names.
What was surprising was that he used the same players, regardless of their form and even the nature of the games. Even in friendly games, during which opponents brought third-string teams, he would use the same players.
The games that irked many people were the friendly games against a South African select side composed of players from the lower division and the national Under 20. The Zebras struggled against the team in the two matches. They won the first game by two goals to one and drew the second one.
Even the game against Libya last year left many people backing the visitors because the Zebras’ performance was uninspiring.
The game against Zambia, for the newly introduced African Championships tournament, put Rowe in a terrible spotlight.
Zambia brought mostly their Under 20 players and blended them with a few from their national Under 23 team. But Botswana’s usual team performed below par. Generally that meant Rowe could not take the best out of the players who were always full of his praises while delivering nothing or little in the field of play.
Rowe’s excuses after the games the Zebras lost left a lot to be desired. In the first place, the reason football is so exciting is because of the mistakes that happen mainly from the referees. But professional coaches always take that as a challenge.
At last year’s COSAFA Castle Cup encounter against Zambia, which Botswana lost by a goal, Rowe said the linesman robbed Botswana because the throw in that resulted in a goal was a foul.
Then came the friendly game against Zimbabwe, which Botswana also lost by a solitary goal. Rowe said ‘the teams could have played to a goalless draw had it not been for the dubious decision from the local referee’, Israel Malepa. He said the goalkeeper was pushed and so it should have been a foul instead of a goal.
Against a disastrous 3-0 loss to Zambia in Lusaka, he complained about food and even the cold water at the hotel they had checked into before the game.
His recent comments against Madagascar were the most surprising. Rowe stressed that there are no strikers who can score in Botswana. He even went to the extent of saying that he could not take his wife to score goals for the team while his selected strikers could not.
His comments emphasized that the players he was selecting did not deserve to be in the team because they are not good enough.