Qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympics was a far fetched dream but it was possible taking into account possibilities that were on the table. The national Under 23 have nothing to lose and have already made the country proud. They are the only team in Botswana’s history to have been exposed to high level competition of soccer. It all started in the qualifications for the group stages against Tunisia.
Bearing in mind the ill-treatment Southern countries normally endure in North Africa and the quality of opponents they were going to face, Botswana was given no chance of making it. Light of hope only came on after news that Botswana managed to hold Tunisia to a goalless draw under trying conditions. Goalkeeper Noah Maposa even saved a penalty to keep a clean sheet. Botswana ended up sailing through after winning the second leg by a solitary goal. The victory against Tunisia stands as one of the historical and great achievements this country has ever seen.
The importance of the game was even evident at the National Stadium for the second leg. The stadium was full to the brim and after the final whistle the Tunisians could not believe it and many of the players and some technical members were crying like toddlers. After the Tunisian game, it was Angola for the All Africa games. Botswana once again made history by walloping Angola 2-0 at the National Stadium. The second game was even tougher as Angola, enjoying home advantage, managed to come back in Luanda only for Botswana to win on penalties. The biased referee did not even deter the team to break the Angolan jinx that existed for ages. The team went on to cause havoc at the South African Eight Nations’ Tournament and at the Chinese tournament that would follow latter. In South Africa, African giants like Cameroon, Ghana and Asian giants, China, tasted defeat at the hands of Botswana. In China other bigger nations like Japan and South Korea could not get past Botswana as they lost by a single goal apiece. In the group stages, Botswana proved their rapid maturing by defeating Guinea and West African giants, Morocco. Generally it was the Tunisian game that revolutionised everything. Credit must go to the Botswana defence that stood firm throughout. The defence together with some players made an effective contribution and played their hearts out throughout the campaign. It looks as if it’s only a matter of time such players make it big in football provided all mechanisms involved are put into place. Players like goalkeeper Maposa, Moreetsi Mosimanyana, Mosimanegape Ramohibidu, Mmusa Ohilwe, Amos Godirwang and Dirang Moloi are the cream of the team. Other players’ contributions were important but the above mentioned contributions were awesome.
Maposa is one player who played for almost all junior teams in the country and is already knocking on senior Zebras door. He was picked on about two occasions but he could not easily wrestle the number one jersey from experienced and first choice goalkeeper, Modiri Marumo. He is also one player who deserves a foreign team. One game many people will remember him for was one against Angola away for the All Africa games in the second leg. He was the hero for Botswana when he saved two penalties that ensured Botswana booked their place for the next game. Mosimanyana on the other hand is a rare breed in Botswana football. He looks more like a West African player because of his physique.
Not many defenders in Botswana are tough like him, and he has been a solution when Botswana played West African countries like Guinea and Cameroon. Fans even call him ‘Tshipi’ (metal rod) because he is not afraid of going for a challenge and once you are under his guard expect grueling tackles. There are even rumours that many Premier League teams are already jostling for his services for the next transfer window.
Ramohibidu has proved himself to be the best left back player in the country. He can also play as an attacking or defending midfielder. What catapults him from other defenders is his ability to service square balls. His crosses are always perfect and rarely miss the box. He might be lost to BMC sooner if lucrative offer comes by his side. He was the engineer of the winning goal against Guinea and even scored against Morocco.
Ohilwe, meanwhile, is one of the best sweepers in the country and is also destined for greater places. He is intelligent in easily dispossessing strikers. Godirwang, on the other hand, is the anchor and engine of the team.
His combination with Moloi is one of the best. He has the ability to take long range shots. Moloi is currently the toast of the country and can even make it big overseas. He was the man behind the famous victories against North African giants, Tunisia and Morocco. In the victory against Tunisia he was the one who supplied scorer, Moemedi Moatlhaping, with a defence splitting pass. Against Morocco he supplied two beautiful passes to Ramohibidu and Jerome Ramatlhakwane who slotted them in.