Thursday, July 9, 2020

The jury is out and time will tell if Bright will brighten Zebras’ fortunes

“I swear by the Almighty God, that I will do diligently for my nation and the country at large, so help me God,” so swore new Zebras coach Major David Bright.

Whether he was playing to the gallery or not, the taking of oath by Bright, unsolicited as it was, signalled how serious the job of leading the Botswana national football team is.

As he steps in to take the Zebras’ coaching job, the second local to take it on full time basis after Stan Tshosane, “Fakude,” as Bright is affectionately called, knows expectations will be too high on him to deliver.

Following a turbulent period that has seen the Zebras fail to reach the highs of the Tshosane era, the incoming coach is tasked with the unenviable task of “rebuilding the national team”, as Botswana Football Association (BFA) president Maclean Letshwiti said.

Among his targets as he takes charge, Bright must among others, reach the COSAFA Castle Cup finals, reach the qualification stages of AFCON as well as reach the group stages of Africa World Cup qualifiers for the 2020 World Cup.

“As I come in with my technical team, we are taking the baton from the current coach not to move backward but to move forward. It is a norm when you run a relay, not to move backwards when you take the baton but to move forward,” Bright said in his first address to the media as a full time Zebras coach.

“If you look at the set-up, I am the second Motswana to take the team on full-time basis and the first Motswana to do that was Tshosane. I believe that, with that, we will do our best like what Stan (Tshosane) did with his technical team,” Bright said.

“Who knows, by taking the national team as locals, we might go as far as the World Cup. It is possible; do not tell me it is not possible. Everything is done by hard work, not miracles,” he continued.

While the World Cup qualification may be a pie in the sky, Bright’s words may have been music in the eyes of the BFA president.

Explaining their decision to hire a local for the Zebras coaching job, Letshwiti had made it known that he believed successful national teams are mostly the ones coached by locals.

“When we parted ways with Peter Butler, we introspected and looked at what kind of a coach we need as Botswana. Then there was a deliberate policy to go local. The decision to look for a local was therefore deliberate,” the BFA president explained.

“If you look around the world, and the success of national teams, they are driven by local coaches, not foreign coaches. That is why we settled for a local coach,” he said.

According to Letshwiti, as criteria for hiring a new coach, the BFA looked for “a man with experience, with the right qualifications and a lot of achievement”.

As the only Motswana coach to ply his trade outside the borders of Botswana, and with loads of achievements locally, it is little wonder the BFA settled for Bright.

Aside from coaching in the South African Leagues, both in Premier League and First Division, Bright has also had stints with the local national teams.

As a part-time coach of the Zebras, Bright was at the helm when the Zebras won the Four Nations King Millenium tournament in 2000. Despite playing some eye catching football with a then youthful Zebras team, the Four Nations tournament win remained his best achievement.

His best achievement in the national team, however, came when he was the coach of the National Under-23 football team.

Under his guidance, in 2008, the national U-23 team qualified for the group stages of the Olympic qualifiers, where they finished second in a group made of African football powerhouses like Cameroon, Guinea and Morrocco.

It was on the very same year that the very same U-23 team finished second to Cameroon in the Sasol 8 Nations tournament in South Africa and also won the Four Nations Tournament in China, where they faced the hosts China as well as Japan and Korea.

But is Bright the man for the job? For now, the jury is out and only time will tell.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.