The first and last time Botswana’s national Under 17 qualified for the African Championships tournament was 17 years ago in Mali.
The team qualified after Zambia was disqualified for allegedly using overage players. Zambia beat Botswana 6-0 in the first leg and Botswana only managed 1-0 in the return leg. Botswana then scheduled to play Malawi and emerged victorious with a 2-1 aggregate. Almost all the players that were in that team have called it a day with the exception of Tshephiso Molwantwa of Premier League side, Notwane, and Diphetogo Selolwane, who is still playing professional soccer in the South African Premier League. The current Under 17 team is showing signs of making it to the African championships after beating Rwanda on penalties on Saturday. The team had won the first leg by a solitary goal and Rwanda won by the same margin and forced the match to automatically go for penalties.
Botswana is now one match away from qualifying after they play either Sudan or Algeria. The winner will then progress to the 10th African Championship that will be held in Morocco early next year.
There is optimism among some Batswana that the youngsters will sail through, looking at the results of their previous matches.
Youth development enthusiast, Fobby Radipotsane, told Telegraph Sports that the current team has already gained a lot through playing on the African continent.
“These guys have already beaten Malawi and Rwanda and I do not see them failing in their next match. I understand that in Rwanda the stadium was full to capacity but the young boys soldiered on and defied the odds by holding the hosts to the end. They managed to win on penalties. This also shows you that our team has also experience on penalties because they eliminated Malawi the same way,” he said.
Radipotsane also added that the current team is receiving support compared to the previous ones.
“This team came at a time when the Umbro sponsorship came on board. It was for the first time a sponsorship for the senior team went to the junior teams and when they are in camp you can notice the difference from previous junior national teams. Those little differences, especially outside the pitch attire, mean a lot to the young players,” he said.
Radipotsane also emphasized that most of the players in the team played together for a long time and are in the hands of good coaches. He said the technical team has been in youth development for a long time and is not surprised with the results they are bringing.