Tall order awaits Botswana’s representatives in the African club competitions.
Gaborone United and Uniao Flamengo Santos will have to triple their efforts if they are to progress further into the competitions.
Gaborone United (GU) will be participating in the African Champions Cup while Santos will be campaigning in the African Confederations tournament. GU will have a Mount Everest to climb because they are taking on one of the biggest teams in Africa, Orlando Pirates of South Africa, while Santos has been paired with Mozambican club, Costa dol Sol.
The last time GU participated in the African competition was way back in 1994 when they engaged a Mozambican Club, Ferroviaro de Maputo. After winning by a solitary goal in Gaborone, the team went on to lose by two goals in Maputo.
GU actually threw the match away because in Gaborone during the first leg they could have scored an avalanche of goals but their striking force let them down heavily.
The only goal of the day ended up coming from a defender, Mlungisi Kopi, who scored from a scorcher.
At that time, the team had some of the great players, the likes of veteran Gofhamodimi ‘City’ Senne, Mandla Balanda, Rapelang ‘Razor’ Tsatsilebe, Listen Kealotswe, Pogiso Moarabi and others.
Currently, they have a youthful team that, should they play the way they did when they won the league, can go a long way in this competition.
The department that seems to be causing a bit of concern is the goalkeeping department and, before venturing into the unknown African assignment, they have to reinforce it.
GU is now facing a club that is to date the only Southern African team to have won the African Champions tournament. The tourney for years has been dominated by north and West African countries.
Pirates are also a team that has not won major titles for years, both at local and international level, and they are obviously viewing this installment of the African club championships as the ideal opportunity for them.
Since 1995 when they surprised the African continent by winning the African champions tournament, they have been on a free fall. Even this season locally it looks they might not win a league title that they have been yearning for. They have many excellent players who undoubtedly are going to give GU a torrid time.
Santos, on the other hand, will be participating in the continental competitions for the first time.
However, the Mozambican club is perennial participants in African competitions. Their main problem is that they never progress far. Having been in the African competitions before gives them an edge over Santos. Santos is full of youngsters and, fortunately, several of them have international experience at youth level. Most of them played together from the Under 14 up to the Under 20. That should give them a morale boost. Santos’ advantage might also be the fact that they are ball players who can knock the ball around for the entire game.
Mozambican clubs, including their senior national team, are renowned for physical and power play type of play.
When facing physical opponents, Santos normally emerge victorious.
If Santos plays their normal, physical game, then Costa dol Sol would indeed have a tough time.
Batswana are waiting with baited breath to see how far the teams can progress.
The only local clubs that made strides into African football were Notwane in 1995 and Township Rollers in 2006.
Some local teams have also not been participating in African competitions citing financial constraints and this time around these two clubs must make the nation proud.