Last year when the late Banks Panene assembled the national Under 23, he roped in the best talent from the Premier League. Banks even went to an extent of saying Botswana’s opponents were not going to have it easy against Botswana. Panene was right because the team went on to terrorise the so-called big guns not only in Africa but also in Asia. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the success of the team he created because he left for the senior team, Zebras and later on met his untimely death. Major David Bright was the one who was given the reins and did not make many changes. Currently, the national under 20 is being assembled for the annual Council for Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) that will be held in the city of Nelspruit in the province of Mpumalanga in South Africa. By the look of things, the team might emulate their national Under 23 counterparts for the tournament that start next month. Almost more than half of the team is made up of prominent Premier league players of which some were in the Under 23. The team is also led by respected coaches in the country, Mogomotsi ‘Teenage’ Mpote and Oris ‘Boyo’ Radipotsane. After a successful stint at Francistown side, Tasc, Mpote is now in Serowe where he is coaching Miscellenious. The team is currently doing well and looking forward for their maiden appearance in the Premier League.
Radipotsane also does not need introduction to the local scenes because he is calling the shots at Jwaneng Comets. The prominent faces in the team include the likes of Tebogo Sembowa, Bonolo Fraser (Ecco City Green), Edwin Moalosi, Gabriel Bokhutlo (Township Rollers), Joel Olerile (Uniao Flamengo Santos), Kgololo Leteane (Lobtrans Gunners) and Monageng Thaele of Mogoditshane Fighters. Sembowa and Bokhutlo were the prominent members of the national Under 23. Sembowa can be remembered for his powerful shot that resulted in the second goal when Botswana defeated China 4-0 at this year’s Eight Nations tournament in South Africa. Despite Botswana not making it to the semi-finals in last year’s COSAFA tournament, Sembowa finished as the leading goal scorer with seven goals to his credit. The game in which he mesmerised people was against Mauritius when he scored six goals. Despite Bokhutlo’s short height he is a no nonsense right back defender and is not easily intimidated by tough strikers.
Thaele, on the other hand, was always on the bench and it was not surprising when Bright finally dropped him. It is now time for him to prove that Bright made a mistake by dropping him. As for Moalosi, he has been a vital member of Township Rollers, especially on the left wing. He is naturally a dribbling wizard and, in addition, he has pace. He is normally introduced in the second half and every time he comes on he influences his team.
Another player people should look up to is Gunners towering left back, Leteane.
The 18-year-old Letlhakane, born in Ngwaketsi, started playing regularly this year and has already made his presence felt. He easily overlaps and switches back with effect. The memorable game for him was against Police XI which Gunners lost 3-2. Gunners scored two goals first courtesy of Leteane only to let Police XI come back into the game.
Coach Mpote is also confident of doing well at the tournament. He told Sunday Standard that countries are going to be surprised with the immense talent that Botswana posses. “Apart from the players that play in the Premier league, others are in the First Divisions which are competitive. Also some of the players are the ones that went to secondary school competitions in Namibia last year where they won a silver medal. We are definitely on the right track and I can assure you we will be there to compete,” he said. Mpote was also adamant that by the end of this week they would finalise the team. So far, they have only played a practice match against BDF XI which they lost 2-0. Botswana has been once again pitted against rivals South Africa,, Mauritius and Mozambique. South Africa, known as Amajita, look to be the real potential threat. Last year they routed Botswana with an avalanche of nine goals during qualifying the qualifying matches for the Africans champions qualifying tournament. They beat Botswana 6-0 at home before rounding it off 3-1 at the National Stadium.
Meanwhile the national Under 17 faces a daunting task in Namibia for the regional tourney. They have been pitted against Malawi and Zambia.