Friday, December 1, 2023

Will there be another strong Zebras team after AFCON?

It is currently all ululations in Botswana following the historic qualifications of the senior national team, the Zebras.

Against all odds, Botswana made it to next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament edging out big guns like Togo and Tunisia.

As should be the norm, accolades are already showered on the team for a job well done.
Already, some people are expressing concern that the current success should not blind the Botswana Football Association.

Like in other countries, they have to look beyond 2012. Some people are even arguing that Botswana might not have a very strong team because several key players in the team are in the twilight of their careers.

Some such players are goalkeeper Modiri Marumo, midfielders Diphetogo Selolwane, Tshepo Motlhabankwe and defender Mompati Thuma.

Football analyst, Fobby Radipotsane, disputes the issue that Botswana will not have a strong team after 2012 AFCON.

He told Sunday Standard that Botswana might even have a stronger team than the current one.
“If you look at our current team, there are going to be very few players who will call it a day immediately after AFCON. But the majority will play for a few more years. This means we have to look at our junior teams, like the national Under 23 and 20. We have so many good players there who would fit into the senior national team like gloves. Just look, when we played against Nigeria two weeks back, we were using our third choice goalkeeper, Kabelo Dambe, because the first two choices were injured. Dambe did well and denied the Nigerians home victory. He impressed many people and might even be lost to local soccer in future,” he said.

Radipotsane also emphasised that AFCON will be watched by many people and this means more local players will be exposed and might even sign for European clubs. He said that would give more home-based players a chance to get into the national team and fight hard to get into the starting line ÔÇôup.

“If some of our players join the professional ranks those that come in will even be hungrier as they would also want to go to the next AFCON. Definitely we have many good players and it is just that they cannot easily break into the senior national team because other good ones are already there,” he said.

On the other hand, one local coach, who preferred anonymity, differs with Radipotsane, saying Botswana will not be the same after AFCON. He said experienced players are not easily replaced and, as such, Botswana is going to have a slump.

“Players that are obvious to retire after AFCON are the likes of goalkeeper Marumo, Motlhabankwe and Selolwane. These are very experienced players and you cannot replace them overnight. It takes time to gain experience and here in Botswana we do not have much depth to select from,” he said.
The coach, however, acknowledged that the past two Under 23s had good players but the problem is that they have been inactive from international football.

“If you do not play many international matches it affects your performance and by the time you come back after a year or two, you will not be the same and those playing will be far ahead of you,” he said.


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