Thursday, June 20, 2024

Under 23 victories ÔÇô a tonic for Botswana’s bruised soul

“Halt Air Botswana privatization.” “PEEPA in fresh row over BTC privatization” blah! Blah! Blah!. The country’s printing presses are rolling out depressing headlines, and a smiling citizen is as rare as a feel good story.
Opposition politicians are screaming and railing against the country’s planned privatization. Ruling party big shorts just want to sell the country’s silverware and line their pockets, they rant. Workers are shaking their collective fists in anger. They see privatization as worse than selling the national cutlery. To them, it’s stealing bread from their plates. The government enclave and the Botswana Democratic Party are divided over the issue.

For now, it seems the privatization debate is set for further divisive twists and turns. Even President Festus Mogae and his party MPs are screaming their lungs out in public shouting matches and the camps surrounding them have launched a public relations war to seize just the right headlines. The tragedy of it all is that our leadership seems to have lost its moral suasion power as a unifying force. If there was any one incident that brought home the country’s doom and gloom, it is when some BDP parliamentarians voiced out that they feared for their lives.

A look at the letter pages of local newspapers suggests that the country has reached a stage where human frailty is dwelt upon and magnified. Suddenly Vice President Ian Khama is being projected as a bird of prey that will feed on its flock when he becomes president.

Opposition leader Otsweletse Moupo, on the other hand, is being dismissed as a man of sticks who can not be entrusted with the destiny of Botswana.

The “Gr-r-r-reat” feel good headline on our front page should thus come as a breath of fresh air and a tonic for Botswana’s bruised soul. In 90 minutes, eleven men is shorts chasing a pig skin have provided the country with a catharsis, a safety valve to let off all its pent up energies and hold hands behind the country’s flag in true patriotism.

Botswana soccer has never been this close to international recognition. In a country where football has always been so intrinsic to the national psyche, the Under 23s, which has enjoyed exploits at the Sasol Eight Nation Tournament in South Africa, has the potential to become a national unifying force. The one we can all rally around and support. It transcends age, political, social, economic and cultural divides. It brings out the best in Botswana: Love and brotherhood despite the dramas and crises playing out on newspaper pages, in boardrooms and freedom squares.
We should never underestimate the feel good power of a successful national team. It made Ivorian guerillas forget their AK 47s and reminded them of the country’s national anthem. When the Zambian economy was in the doldrums, it made Zambians forget their hunger pangs and reminded them of “One Zambia, One Nation.”

It brings out true patriotism; yes, there is the erupting emotion of an impulse, but it also reminds us that despite all our differences, we are still brothers and sisters. The Sunday Standard Editor and staff takes this opportunity to congratulate the Under 23 coach Major Bright, the Under 23 team and supporters who braved the South African chilling winter to give the team the much needed moral support.


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