Botswana’s senior national team, Zebras has just come out of an embarrassing journey in quest to qualify for 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. Of the six matches the team played they only managed just a point and a goal and this has lead to an intense criticism from soccer circles to both the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and even the head coach of the team, James Peter Butler.
BFA is mainly criticised for bringing an inexperienced coach as far as playing in Africa is concerned and even allowing him to dismantle the foundation that was already there. Butler, on the other hand is fiercely being criticised for having a team that seems not to have direction because he was changing and chopping players during the qualifications. When he came he started with almost a new team of unknown players and when he got the baptism of fire, that’s when several experienced players were called to the team. Efforts to include more of such players fell in deaf ears and eventually Zebras ended up as one of the worst performing countries in the qualifiers. Even though Coach Butler always claimed that he was building, there were several players in his team who were reaching the twilight of their careers and had not even been through the national youth team’s setups.
This is despite the fact that Botswana had had good young players in the national setups who did not manage to easily break into the senior national team as is the case with other countries. Just last year Botswana qualified for the African Youth Championships in Morocco and were the only representatives from the Southern African continent. The team had many excellent players who were even the envy of many countries. Many of them could not even be given chances by local teams. Players that come into mind are the likes of Thatayaone Ramatlapeng, Lebogang Ditsile and Allen Ndodole. Even some few years back there was an outcry as the some excellent players were even not given a chance by their teams.
One such player was Aubrey Kebonnetse who was a future striker but was always on the sidelines at his team, Township Rollers. The then Technical Director of the BFA, Losika Keatholetswe, even had to confront the team to either utilise or loan the player. On his part, football analyst, Fobby Radipotsane told The Telegraph Sports that youth players do not easy progress to the senior team because of the nature of coaches in the country. He said most coaches do not believe in young talent but rather want readymade products to deliver the results.
“It is unfortunate our national team is not doing well and the problems come from downstream. If the players from our national youth teams had an easy passage to the Premier League teams and eventually the senior team, we would not be having problems we have now. Good players are there but they are not given a chance.” he said. He added that it was about time the BFA intervened to remedy the situation. He said there should be kind of quota for young players in the teams for the benefit of the country in the long run.