In 1994, former French coach, Aime Jacquet, was once under a barrage of attacks from the media and some sections of the French sports fraternity accusing him of scrappy selection. That was the time when France was preparing to host the 1998 World Cup, and all the years leading to the tournament were horrible for Jacquet as he was criticized left and right.
The notable omissions from the team were then top players, Eric Cantona and David Ginola. Cantona was then a great player at Manchester United while Ginola was doing wonders at Tottenham Hotspurs and once even finished as the English leading goal scorer. Jacquet’s obituary was written between the time he started assembling the team and the time the World Cup was about to start. He stood his ground and proved his critics wrong by winning the tightly contested World Cup.
Currently in Botswana, the national team coach, Colwn Rowe, is facing the same predicament. He has since picked up his preliminary team for the upcoming qualifications for both the 2010 World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations and is already facing objections and criticisms. Rowe is mainly accused of sticking to old guards instead of giving the youthful ones a chance for the upcoming qualifications. The critics mainly wonder why Rowe can’t take most of the players from the national Under 23 who have since impressed the world at large. The Under 23 team made a name for itself in Africa and beyond by winning the games that were allergic to the country before. They beat great countries like China, Japan, Korea, Tunisia, Morocco, Cameroon and Guinea. Although they missed the ticket to the Olympics, they nearly made it for the first time in history. To many people’s surprise, Rowe just stuck to the old team and only picked a fraction of the Under 23.
The question that still lingers on many people lips is whether Rowe would prove his critics wrong with his current squad and give Batswana something to smile about.
From the Under 23, he only selected the goalkeeper, Noah Maposa, Gobonyeone ‘Shoes’ Selefa and Moreetsi Mosimanyana. Rowe has since said he does not want urgent and wholesome changes but gradual ones. But the reality on the ground is that the Under 23s have proven that they are always prepared to die for the country regardless of the circumstances.
The players that have been surprisingly left out are BMC left back, Mosimanegape Ramohibidu, sweeper Musa Ohilwe, right back Gabriel Bokhutlo and midfield anchor Amos ‘Shoes’ Godirwang.
Undoubtedly, Ramohibidu is seen as an ideal replacement for the ageing and experienced Nelson ‘Viola’ Gabolwelwe. What gives Ramohibidu a chance is the fact that he can play both as a left back and winger and, in addition, he has the speed needed in modern football. Who can really forget his first goal against Morocco in the Olympic qualifying games? He scored a beautiful goal after outpacing the quick Moroccans. One of his memorable contributions was against Guinea, also in the Olympic qualifying games. Many people thought the game would end up as a one all draw but it was not to be after Ramohibidu laid a killer pass to the box and Selefa headed in to make it 2-1. Apart from being a perfect ball crosser in the Mascom Premier league, Ramohibidu is also excellent at both taking corner kicks and free kicks. His exclusion is seen as a great oversight by Coach Rowe.
Ohilwe has also proved to be a good second last man in defence. Although at Zebras there are great guys like Ndiapo Letsholathebe and Khumo Motlhabane who can play his role. But there is no guarantee that Ndiapo will be available in some of the Zebras’ games because he is studying in America. In addition, Motlhabane is ageing and troubled by injuries and this could be the perfect time to use Ohilwe in the upcoming friendly games.
Bokhutlo might be short with a slender body but he is one of the best quarters in Africa. In many of the games he features, he tames well-built players who are much taller than him. He also has a hunger to dispossess strikers. Godirwang is a real anchor man in the middle of the pack and it was not surprising that Bright used him even when he was not fit for the games. He can be both offensive and defensive and when going forward he can unleash powerful shots. He stunned the Japanese in China with a long range shot just near the centerline. The goal ensured that Botswana won by a goal at the Four Nations Tournament last year. Most of the midfielders in the national team lack shooting power and those who try lack variation.