With Zebras coach, Colywn Rowe, using the same players in most of the games all the time, regardless of their performance, there is a growing fear that most of the players, especially those near or over thirty years, might not be easily available in important games.
With hope to make it at least to the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola in 2010, most such players might not be available either through injuries or through running out of steam.
Once injured, older players take a longer time to heal compared to the young ones. If Botswana made it to that soccer showpiece, it might be a disaster at the tournament.
Age might take its toll on the country because half of the team appears to be on the verge of retirement at the same time and once that happens, able replacements will be needed promptly.
Players like Ernest Amos, Nelson ‘Viola’ Gabolwelwe, Mompati Thuma, Diphetogo Selolwane, Tshepo ‘Talk Talk’ Motlhabankwe, Khumo Motlhabane and Michael Mohaladi fall in almost the same basket. Bearing in mind that Rowe is always critisised for not giving many good players a chance, especially those from the Under 23 team, Botswana might be faced with a gloomy age gap picture in a few years’ time.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, they are still suffering from the inevitable age bug following the retirement of their top players almost at the same time following the achievements of winning the1996 Africa Cup of Nations and qualifying for the 1998 World Cup for the first time.
Having broken into the South African professional ranks a bit latter in their careers, Gabonamong, Mohaladi and Dipsy Selolwane might even consider leaving the national team to concentrate on club football as is normally the trend around the world.
On the other hand, former Zebras coach, Jellusic Vesselin, has allayed such fears saying older players can still play a significant role in the national team and gave the example of Italy.
Vesselin said Italy won the 2006 World Cup with most of their players over the age of 30. He told Sunday Standard that the onus lies on the players to be always fit for the games.
“Italy did well at the World Cup and most of their players were over the age of 30 and one was around 40. This actually shows you that it is up to the players to lead healthy lives. Once they train hard and remain fit they will not easily lose their form. In such instances, experience will come as an added advantage to them,” he said.
Vesselin also added that since there are good youth structures in place, there would not be many problems once certain players are out of the senior team. He said most of the players play together from the under 17 to the senior team and thus create an understanding platform.
Vesselin added that once players are groomed together from an early age, they progress easily. With the country currently facing a scoring crisis, he heaped praises on the youthful Under 20 striker, Aubrey Kebonetse. He said if the young player remains level-headed, he will achieve a great deal and might surpass many players before him.
Vesselin said the player came through their youth structures and so he is not surprised by his performance. Even though his team, Rollers, have not given the young lad a chance, he has been the backbone behind the Under 20 team. He scored four goals in three international appearances and some of his goals were classic. He scored a brace in a friendly against South Africa a month ago. He scored the first goal from a terrific header and the second one while surrounded by the defence but still managed to shoot, giving the keeper no chance.
A week later, Kebonetse scored in a one-all draw against Namibia in the African Youth championships. In the return leg, Kebonnetse sent Namibia packing by scoring another beautiful goal from a powerful header at the National Stadium.