Without any shred of doubt, Botswana is blessed with passionate football fans. Most of them have not stopped complaining about the early ousting of Botswana’s various football national teams from regional, continental and international competitions. The common denominator leading to the national team’s early exit, they say, is lack of proper and adequate preparations.
A section of soccer pundits, who were seated at the grand stand during the Uniao Flamingo Santos/ Mochudi Centre Chiefs’ill-tempered encounter, took a swipe at the local football governing body for not taking the feelings of victory-hungry national team’s supporters seriously.
To some extent, these jeers cannot be said to be implausible. Considering that while other nations are at very advanced stages in preparations by their Olympic football teams for the qualifiers, Botswana is still enjoying the comfort of her duvet. The team was assembled a few months ago but was unreasonably dispersed after their Mauritanian counterparts withdrew.
What does that tell us? Simply that our teams only go into camp when there is a game within at a touching distance. This trend, it would appear, deprives the players of the element of togetherness in terms of acquiring team tactics. This is because the time they spend together is just too little.
Other countries like South Africa are forever organizing friendly games against notable countries so as to gauge their team’s strengths and to keep their players in shape.
One would think with Botswana adjacent to South Africa, the yearning to participate in the World’s greatest football showdown would, if sanity prevailed, arouse people from their endless slumbers on the office couches and try harder to prepare our Under-23 team.
The core of the current senior Zebras players will be nearing retirement in 2010. Whilst they will play a part, to a minimal extent though, the older folk will ordinarily be there to provide “experience”, if at all they have it. If the truth be told, players like Dirang Moloi, Phenyo Mongala, Vincent Kgaswane-Phiri, Elijah Phiriepha, Kemmy Pilato, Betsho Pius and Mara Moloi are the cream of the premier league, but without proper preparation, they will emulate the Pony-Jerseys dressed Zebras of the early 2000 and succumb to even has-beens.
Looking at the way Mauritania made a mockery of our senior Zebras, the younger folks could have given the Banks Panene tutored lads a good run for their money. This is not because Botswana players lack talent, but because they do not prepare adequately for matches of such magnitude.
Some even think this deficiency spirals from the senior Zebras structures. Can somebody tell why players who are the stars of the local elite league are not included in the Zebras lineup for friendly games when there are no domestic league games scheduled? We talk about players like Pius (Police XI), Murambiwa Ndlovu (Satmos), Go-Man Batsweletse (Nico United), Phiri (Santos), Phiriepha (Chiefs), Gaborone (GU) and many others. It actually would help a great deal to have a feel of national team environment. It would also send a sharp message to those who might feel they own national team jerseys and actually make them work harder to keep them.
Thabo Raseu of FC Palapye actually questions the dismantling of the national teams.
“When there are no official national team commitments, it is the right time for the Zebras technical team to tour the country in a serious bid to beef up the team. That way, they will have a clue as to who would replace the ageing players,” said Raseu.
In the past, previous coaches had to employ trial and error tactics in replacing ageing players. When the likes of Barcos Mosimanegape vanished from the Zebras fold, it was trial and error all the way. Players like James “King Can” Tshekedi have had their fare share of Zebras action.
This, according to Lovemore Moesi of Mokomoto FC, is not healthy for Botswana football.
“By the time they find players who fit well, all the honours and glorious days are gone. Look at what happened to the Zebras before they enlisted the likes of Ernest Amos and Ndiapo Letsholathebe. The team was very porous at the back because they had not anticipated that the likes of Barcos would one day leave,” reasoned Moesi.
What boggles the mind is that the coaches always bring the issue of inadequate preparations as an excuse after losing games. The big question, therefore, is why don’t they prepare adequately? Are they restricted by some circumstances from preparing adequately? If that is the case, why do they allow themselves to be turned into laughing stocks because the hawkish eyes of the public are always on them?
Last week, Zebras coach Rowe and Botswana Football Association Technical Officer, Philemon Makhwengwe, were in Bobonong in a Choppies sponsored prize-giving ceremony of teams in the Bobirwa region. One of the statements that stood out came from the mouth of the area Member of Parliament, Shaw Kgathi, who said; “My dream is for one of the players from this bunch to don the Zebras jersey. I showed the way as I represented the country in softball.”
Will the youngsters ever don the Zebras jerseys as the MP wished? How will that happen if the national selectors are glued to Gaborone and surrounding areas? Some of their players will never leave their respective teams like Peace Makers. If the selectors will not tour the country in a quest to unearth untried prospective Zebras players, then Kgathi’s dream will just vanish into thin air.
When South Africa’s international soccer was in its embryonic stage, they did not know how they could assemble a fairly balanced team as the country was blessed with an abundance of talented players.
Many might not know that very good players like Doctor Khumalo did not make the first national team. It was only after an invitational side was assembled to face the official Bafana Bafana that Khumalo and David “Going Up” Nyathi were called to the party. The whole point is that in Botswana, regional invitation sides could be assembled to play the Zebras and more untried good players could be unearthed.
Agrees Charles Nkalolang of Rakops Dust Rangers; ‘’In Boteti area we have talent in abundance. The selectors do not want to watch some of our players. They only consider Orapa and Letlhakane teams. I tell you, if that Rowe guy could come to Rakops, he won’t be disappointed. Players like Mooketsi Kgatampi can outdo many guys who are in the Zebras team at the moment.”