Thursday, October 22, 2020

The dwindling fortunes of the young Zebras

Just last year, Botswana had one of their best junior teams being the national under 17. The team defied all the odds and qualified for African youth championships in Morocco and it was seen as a team that would in future be a strong senior national team. Just from the first match they played Malawi, they showed character up to the last match against Algeria. Even at the championships the team played well despite losing all the three opening matches and it was seen a strong foundation for the senior national team that is also on a slump.

The team has since graduated to the national Under 20 and its fortunes seem to be slowly dwindling and it is already a cause for concern in football cycles. Just early this year, the team bowed out in the early stages of the regional COSAFA tournament in Lesotho. As if that is enough, on Friday the team got knocked out on the first round of the Under 20 African Youth Championships qualifiers by Malawi. They lost to the very team they defeated in the first match for Under 17 African Championships qualifications.

People are asking on what could be wrong with the team that started with a lot of promise especially after qualifying for African Youth Championships. After losing to Malawi on Friday, coach, Inoocent Morapedi did not want to dwell much on the dwindling fortunes of the team. But he however said the challenge he had when he inherited the team from Kaizer Kobedi was the fact that he had to blend it with the previous junior players. “I had to blend two teams because most players from the previous team were still qualifying for the Under 20. So if you combine two teams it it quite a challenge and it takes time for them to understand each othe fully,” he said.

One element he also alluded was lack of preparatory matches before the Malawian encounter. He said before coming to Botswana Malawi played South Africa while they did not play a single international one. “These are some of the small things that work against us. If we play a friendly against a Premier League team, it is different if you play against youthful international players,” he said. On the other hand one local coach who preferred anonymity told Sunday Standard that what is happening now was long coming he said changing the technical teams messed everything that was going to prosper. “Just tell me why was coach Kobedi and his team replaced. Understand that it all started before the Under 17championships started when the manager was also replaced. This was long coming and we need continuity.

In other countries a coach goes with the team up to the last youth age tournaments,” he said. “The coach also said mixing the two teams was a heavy blow for Botswana team and results were not going to come looking at the time frame the teams were combined before the start of qualifications. “It is only in Botswana where we see two junior national teams combined and you cannot expect results from that in a short period of time. The other team did well while the other did not and there should have been continuity for both teams separately,” he said.

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