For a very long time, the youth development structures in Botswana have been in shambles.
From the league teams to the national level there was nothing which would benefit the country.
That was even reflected on the performances of the national teams that were nicknamed “the whipping boys of the African continent”. There was much talk to have full time youth coaches but nothing concrete was put on the ground.
But in 2005, things changed a bit when former national team coach, Vesselin, was re-deployed to oversee youth development for all ages in the country.
The move was seen as good and was even applauded by almost all people across the football spectrum. With credentials of developing the Angolan team that even qualified for the 2006 World Cup, he was seen as the man to also take Botswana at par, or even better, than what he did with Angola.
On the other hand, discontent is already creeping in among most technical members and some coaches who work side by side with Vesselin.
The feeling is that Vesselin prefers players with good height and even physically strong bodies. As such, this is seen by some technical experts as compromising talent.
Most youth teams under Vesselin, like the Under 17 that was late last year embarrassed by Angola, were seen as lacking ball players who would easily take on their opponents.
“Vesselin might be a good coach on his own, but I do not think he is taking our development structures anywhere. His preference of tall and physically tough players has compromised most of promising young players and it is definitely a concern to me. The man is using the philosophy of his own country but here he should combine it with the local talent. If you look the world over, excellent players like Lionell Messi of Barcelona is very short but very lethal,” said one coach who preferred anonymity.
Another coach who also preferred not to divulge his name in fear of reprisal from the Botswana Football Association (BFA) is a worried man. He said if Vesselin did not compromise talent, this country would be a force to reckon with in international football.
“It has proven around the world that ball players that are not preferred by Vesselin win the games for their teams because they control the games. If you do not have them, as I foresee it happening in Botswana, not much success will be achieved. I hope the BFA, together with Vesselin, sit down and address the issue,” he said.
On the other hand, BFA’s Technical director, Losika Keatlholetswe, did not want to dwell much on the accusations.
He said development structures in Botswana do not have specifications and are open to all young players.
“Development is like a triangle, you start from the bottom to the top. At the bottom you accommodate everything that comes your way and, for various reasons, others will make it to the top while others will not. That is what we have adopted at the BFA, we do not develop players because of height or physical prowess, we take into consideration a lot of things. If one player is talented he should be in the team. For instance, most teams prefer tall goalkeepers, but if there is a short one who is excellent why not give him a chance,” said Keatlholetswe.
Keatlholetswe even added that such complaints have never reached his table and, as far he is concerned, everything is going smoothly. Meanwhile, efforts to get a comment from Vesselin before press time were futile.
Vesselin enjoyed a lot of support during his reign with the national team and was even adored by supporters who always filled the National Stadium to the brim.