When the Zebras qualified for the 2012 African Nations Cup (Afcon) for the first time, the whole country broke into a frenzy. It was a feat which many thought would not happen in their lifetime. After a lot of failures under foreign coaches who were paid hefty salaries, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) did the unthinkable when they appointed former BDF XI mentor Stanley Tshosane to steer the ship to the Promised Land. While there were many doubting Thomas’ about the appointment of Tshosane, the former army colonel defied the odds when he took the Zebras to the showpiece in Gabon.
The Zebras saw off the challenges from favourites Tunisia, Togo, Malawi and Chad. The rest of the continent stood up and started taking notice of the Zebras who were once tagged, “The Whipping Boys of Africa.” A goalless draw against powerhouse Nigeria in their own backyard as part of Afcon preparations also won the Zebras lots of praises across the scope.┬áThe Zebras went to the tournament with their tails up and local fans believed that their stars could pull a surprise. While the Zebras failed to convince at the tournament bowing in the group stages, many thought it was a good learning curve.
When the Zebras returned home, there were unbelievable calls that Tshosane must step down and allow a more experienced coach to take over. After sometime Tshosane finally parted ways with BFA in October 2013 to pave way for little known Englishman Peter Butler who assumed his role in February last year.
Since then Tshosane has taken the backseat and focused more on his personal business. There was a time when it seemed he had been lost to football altogether. But First Division outfit Mogoditshane Fighters managed to convince him to return to his first love – football coaching. While he seems to be more of an advisor to coach Mpho Mabogo, Tshosane has pointed out that there is no way he can turn his back against the beautiful game.
Since leaving the Zebras hot seat, Tshosane has avoided media interviews especially when it comes to issues that involve the national team. In his own admission, discussing the Zebras would make other people think that he is bitter following his unceremonious departure from Lekidi Football Centre (BFA Headquarters). “I must admit that I decided not to take interviews regarding the Zebras for a simple reason that some people would look at it in a different manner. But I must say that I’m a Motswana and I’m very passionate about the Zebras.┬áWhen results are not what I expect, I feel the pain just like any other Motswana,” said Tshosane in an exclusive interview on Friday morning.
While he chose not to discuss the overall performance of the Zebras under the new regime, Tshosane has credited the Englishman for his stance on introducing the new blood. “I watched the recent friendly matches against Lesotho and Mozambique and I must say that Butler did well. Many people would not understand what he was trying to do but from where I was sitting as a coach, he did a good job. The other thing is that it is his decision to leave some of the experienced players out of the starting line-up (against Mozambique) and give the youngsters a chance. It takes a man with guts to do that but I would like to appeal to the experienced players to take the positives out of that and support whoever starts the game,” said Tshosane.
Following the 2017 African Nations Cup qualifiers draw which was conducted in Cairo, Egypt on Wednesday, Tshosane believes that the Zebras can negotiate their way to lead the group and return to Gabon. The Zebras are in Group D alongside Burkina Faso, Uganda and Comoros. “We’ve been in tough groups before and performed well. I’ve no doubt that we can repeat the feat but it will take a proper planning to achieve that. BFA need to come to the party on the administrative side and ensure that everything is in place. That would give the technical team and players the motivation to go out there and do the nation proud,” he continued.
While many Batswana took to Facebook on the day of the draw saying that Botswana could not have asked for a better group like this one, Tshosane said there is a need to give the opposition respect. “There is no need to get carried away because that would make us to lose focus. There is need to come up with a strong team for the qualifiers and we also need to be careful on our approach. I think in the away games against Burkina Faso and Uganda, we need to budget for a draw and if we achieve a win that would be a bonus. At home, there is no excuse, we need to collect maximum points. I’m not mentioning Comoros because under normal circumstances they don’t have to give us any problem,” the former Zebras mentor said.