Monday, July 6, 2020

Will the Zebras ever resurrect Batswana’s pride again?

Lately, it has become crystal clear that our national football team, the Zebras, has hit an all time low. Some Zebras enthusiasts told Sunday Standard Sport that perhaps what compounds to this state of affairs is that the vibe that should be going with Zebras games is almost not there. When the mighty Zebras crumbled away to Uganda in a friendly international last month, many took it for granted because it was just a friendly encounter. Yet there are reports of arguments within the playing brigade. This cannot be good for a national team like the Zebras with its unparalleled pride.

“Yes all is not well in the camp. Some factions are now ripe,” said one long serving Zebras player. “It all started when Dipsy and Mogogi withdrew. Players took opposing sides on the issue. Some of us felt the guys were justified in demanding appearance fees but some felt we are just spoiled brats,”

The player said that when they took off to Mauritania, morale in the team was very low.
“The coach tried all he could to motivate us but the damage had already been done. We also tried to motivate ourselves because we dearly wanted to win the game but to no avail,” he said.

One staunch supporter of the Zebras told Sunday Standard Sport that the usual vibe that goes with the team’s games was not there in Mauritania.
“We were actually demoralized because we could see the loss coming, given what transpired in the build up to the game,” he said.

The pride of Batswana had just had a mammoth task of tackling the Chipolopolo of Zambia at the latter’s hunting ground, the monumental Independence stadium in Lusaka. That was the Cosafa Castle Cup semi-final. Well, the boys huffed and puffed before succumbing to a solo Zambian strike. The result saw the Zebras kiss goodbye to this year’s edition of the regional competition.

One thing that people failed to notice during that game is that the team was let down by their regularly dependable rearguard. The Zebras’s back line has always been the team’strongest department. Many a Zebras’ fan has not realized that the team’stripes could be amazingly diminishing when they had to visit lowly Mauritania for an Africa Nations Cup qualifier.

It is now history. The team displayed their poorest performance in five years when they were sent packing 4-0. It is not the first time that the team lost with such big margins, but in the Mauritania game, there was simply a conspicuous lack of a sense of purpose from the boys.

Coupled with the Selolwane/Gabonamong saga, it proved difficult for Colwyn Rowe to motivate the boys.

The Zebras have comfortably fallen into the “Now we know how to lose” arena. The Zebras are, by design, the idols of all the junior national teams.

The team will try to bring smiles back on Batswana’s faces when they host Cameroon on September 30 but the real test will come a week later when they face the “Pharoahs” of Egypt in Gaborone in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

Of the under 17s, it was a question of emulating their big brothers. Led by Veselin, the people’s favourite, they ventured into the familiar footballing territory of South Africa. The expectation was that they would put smiles on many Batswana’s faces by beating their hosts.

At the end of the encounter, it was 6-0 in favour of “Amajimbos” of South Africa. Ironically, the South African Under-17 coach, Serame Letsoaka, had a go at his players after the game for failing to take their chances. Letsoaka’s rage insinuates that their opponents were too weak for a mere 6-0 drubbing.

Is our national Under-17 team very weak, as the South African coach would want the world to believe? Perhaps it is, said one Thabo Petso who coaches one of the second division teams in Gaborone.

“Until such time that the powers that be select more players who are active in the various regional leagues, Botswana will remain the whipping boys for a record, even with Veselin present,” he said.

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