Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Zebras and the Under 23s fight for players

Currently, many Batswana are ululating because the level of soccer in the country is improving drastically, especially at national team level. Both the senior team and the under 23s have put behind the once famous ?Whipping boys of Africa? tag and are now renowned as the most improving team. Botswana soccer might, however, experience a downward spiral if the current trend of sharing of the players between the two teams is not attended to with immediate effect.

The good performance that is currently displayed by the Under 23 team might be short lived because the senior team is bleeding it. No matter if the Under 23 players are engaged in a crucial encounter, Zebras are given priority.

Under 23s will be without two of their key defenders in an important away All Africa Games qualifier against Angola next weekend due to suspensions. To make matters worse, top striker, Jerome Ramatlhakwane and versatile midfielder, Dirang Moloi might also not be available because they traveled with the senior team for a training camp in Belgium. The Zebras will be arriving in Gaborone on the 10th, just a day before the Under 23s engage Angolans in Luanda. Although the Under 23s will be going to Angola with a healthy 2-0 lead from the first round, there is a possibility that the tables might be turned against them.

Another looming problem for the Under 23s is in the Olympic qualifier against Tunisia. The game will be played on March 23, a day before the Zebras engage, Burundi for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying game. The Under 23s played well against Tunisia by playing to a goalless draw in the first leg. However, finishing off the task looks impossible for Major David Bright and Kenneth Mogae?s boys.

Even, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) has made it clear that the Zebras are given priority ahead of the Under 23. The technical officer of the BFA, Tshepo Mphukuthi, told Sunday Standard Sports that once the Zebras coach selects certain players from the Under 23s, there is nothing they could do but to let them join the senior national team.

?If Rowe wants players, they have to go and play. It would be unfortunate if the Under 23 team needs their services. I also do not think Ramatlhakwane and Moloi would make it for the All Africa games qualifier against Angola because they arrive the day before the game,? he said.

Another BFA?s technical officer, Philemon Makgwengwe, told Sunday Standard Sports that since negotiations between them and the two Zebras players, who are on self-imposed exile due to allowances, are on-going, the issue for both teams sharing players might cease. He also said the issue of Ramatlhakwane and Moloi is still being discussed and they might make it to Angola. He said the two players might take a direct flight from Johannesburg to Angola provided there are no logistical problems on the way.

Botswana?s Under 23 team is seen by many soccer pundits as having high chances of reaching the group stages for both the All Africa games and the Olympics games. If they do so, they would succeed where many have failed.

The team has also paraded some of the best players that were not known before by many soccer followers. The players that come into mind are the duo of Captain Mmusa Ohilwe and Moreetsi Mosimanyana. They did a marvelous job in the Zebras defence against Angola. Ohilwe, who plays for the Lobatse side BMC went to the extent of searching for goals. He once unleashed a scorcher but the Angolans were saved by the upright post. It is unfortunate that, Mosimanyana would not be going with the team to Angola because he got marching orders in the first leg. The well built lad who plays for Orapa Wanderers made a name for himself at the national stadium. Many were left wondering as to who exactly he was. He is robust and is never afraid to go for tackles. Every tackle he made, the crowd cheered him. Teams in the Mascom Premier League are reported to be queuing for his signature.

Meanwhile, the assistant coach of the Under 23s, Mogae, has vowed that the team will keep on fighting regardless of whether they will be missing some of the key players. He said there are many players to choose from pointing out that most of the players have a character to fight even when circumstances are difficult. Mogae cited an away Tunisian game in which he said the players had to overcome the biased officiating of the Sudanese referee.

?I wish many Batswana could watch the recorded version of that game and see how these players can fight on the pitch. We encountered situations where by Tunisian players punched and rough tackled our players without any caution from the referee but our players just fought on. Also, we could have got a penalty as early as the seventh minute but the referee waved played on after a Tunisian player deliberately pushed our player after losing possession inside the box,? he said.

Mogae also said many Batswana should not be blinded by the Tunisian draw because Tunisia is a well structured team that needs to be handled very seriously. He said Tunisia beat Botswana on tactics because many of their players play in Europe.

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