The performance of Botswana’s Under 23 team left many soccer pundits in South Africa wagging. Many took notice of Botswana, especially after thrashing China 4-0 in the second game of the just ended Sasol Eight Nations’ Tournament.
They could not believe it when a country that will be hosting the Olympics next year was smashed by minnows Botswana. Some people went to the extent of saying the team should be converted into the senior squad for upcoming tournaments, especially the Council for Southern African (COSAFA) tournament, with only about three or four experienced players added on. Other countries, like South Africa, have already done that this year and they have progressed to another round of COSAFA.
Township Rollers coach, Daniel Nare, believes it is still too early to transform the team because of a variety of factors. Nare said currently there is no channel of promoting the players from junior to senior teams and that is where a lot of attention should be.
“It is still too early to promote Under 23s to the senior team because the senior team is still performing well. At least if they were doing poorly, we could be talking about something of that sort. Under 23 players should be left on their own and grow with the current coach. I think what should actually be done is for the Botswana Football Association to sit down and discuss ways of promoting teams from early stages to the senior team. This should include a situation whereby coaches could work together and devise a common system of play for the teams so that there could be no hassles during transition periods,” Nare said.
Nare also emphasised that Rowe just inherited the team from Jellusic Vesselin and the players are still getting used to his system of play while the Under 23 players are used to David Bright. Nare, who is a former national team player himself, further told Sunday Standard that if changes took place sooner, there could be problems during the transition period.
Nare’s words were echoed by Prisons XI coach, Stanley Mwaanga, who said currently there should not be changes, but at least after the completion of the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations’ (AFCON) qualifications. Mwaanga said the Under 23 is doing well but it should be beefed up by a few players.
“What Botswana’s under 23 displayed in South Africa shows that they can also make it for the Olympics. The current team should not be tampered with but only be strengthened. I believe players like Moemedi ‘Jomo’ Moatlhaping, Dirang Moloi, Phenyo Mongala and Jerome Ramatlhakwane should be added in the team. These four players can provide a depth in the team that could take them even to the Olympics. We just saw them doing well in South Africa without key players. If ever there could be changes in the Under 23, it should be after the qualifications of AFCON games. That would, however, depend on whether the senior team has qualified or not,” Mwaanga said.
Mwaanga also added that most of the senior team members might not be around in 2010 and they should be replaced with those from the Under 23 and that should be done with careful consideration.
Botswana took South Africa by storm to qualify for the finals of the Sasol Eight Nations Tournament. They started by walloping Cameroon by a solitary goal before tearing China into smithereens by four goals without reply. In their third game against South Africa they played to a goalless draw. They played the game as a formality because they had already made it to the semi-finals. They even had the luxury to miss a penalty.
Botswana continued with a good performance against Ghana in the quarter finals and they won by one goal. In the finals, Cameroon made sweet revenge by defeating the local lads but also by a goal.
What caught many people’s attention is that the team only conceded one goal and for that matter in the finals, proof that the defence was water tight and did not leave anything to chance.
Goalkeeper Noah Maposa was voted goalkeeper of the tournament after mighty saves in most of the games. It was not like Botswana had smooth sailing victories; the opponents were also fighting back and Maposa had to come to the rescue on many occasions.
Most of the goals scored by the Under 23 players were well taken, especially from the 18th areas. In the first game against Cameroon, Kaone Molefhe scored from long range. Against China, Ecco City midfielder, Tebogo Sembowa, also scored with a scorcher from 18-yard area. Sembowa repeated the feat in the 1-0 win against Ghana in the semifinals.