Sunday, January 24, 2021

Zebras continue to make history

The past few years have seen a bit of a revolution in Botswana football. A lot might still need to be done, but it looks like every year there is an achievement that has never been attained in the history of Botswana football. Botswana is slowly making it a norm to defeat countries that previously were seen as untouchable. Last year, the Under 23 for the first time reached the group stages of the Olympic Games after beating Tunisia, one of Africa’s giants.

The Under 23s also further made strides by bowing out in the last lap of the All Africa Games. This was after they beat Angola for the first time, only to lose to South Africa.

In the Olympic qualifying games, Botswana did not just go there to make up the numbers but fiercely competed and beat the likes of Guinea and Morocco. They even had a chance to make it to this year’s Olympics in China in August.

The Zebras, on the other hand, made a name for themselves and some history by defeating the likes of South Africa and Angola in the Council for Southern African Football Associations in the past two seasons.

What, however, should be taken note of on the above achievements is that they were at home. Away from home, the best the team could do was to draw.

But now, things are changing a little bit and the Zebras are showing that, with determination, victory can be achieved outside the borders. The man who started the ball rolling was none other than Jellusic Vesselin, the former Zebras coach and the man in charge of developmental structures in the country.
June 18, 2005 was the day many Batswana cherished. The Zebras, for the first time, beat the Flames of Malawi in Blantyre 3-1.
Previously, this was something unrealistic for the Zebras when playing on foreign soil.

Last week, the Zebras achieved another major milestone in their history. They did not only beat Mozambique 2-1 for the first time in history but they beat them away in Maputo. What even made the results unbelievable to many was the fact that all odds were staked against the Zebras before the game.

The Zebras coach, Colywn Rowe, had just been fired following an unimpressive goalless draw against Madagascar.

Mozambique, on the other hand, had just lost to the Ivory Coast away in Abidjan and they were looking for nothing short of a victory.

It was not surprising that, after the game, some Mozambican supporters went berserk and pelted missiles at the Zebras supporters who had accompanied the team to boost their morale.
Of almost all Zebras historic achievements, the player who stands out is Diphetogo Selolwane.
In 2005, when the Zebras beat Malawi, he scored the first goal and created the other two, scored by Tshephiso Molwantwa and Tshepo ‘Talk Talk Motlhabankwe.

Last week, against Mozambique, Selolwane was at it again, scoring the all important first goal and had a hand in the second one, scored by Boitumelo Mafoko.

With historic achievements trickling in, Botswana is slowly but surely heading for a major historic achievement never seen in local football. Many Batswana want the country to qualify for their first ever Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
And Botswana might qualify bearing in mind that in the last qualifiers the country bowed out in the last lap.

Currently, the focus for Botswana should be on the qualifications for the second phase of both the AFCON and the World Cup. In the second phase, it will be really difficult as was the case in the 2006 AFCON and World Cup campaigns. The Zebras found themselves in the middle of giants, such as Tunisia, Morocco and Guinea.

If Botswana makes it to the second and final phase, they might once again find themselves in the middle of other great African countries. That would mean Botswana would have to do something extraordinary to pull through. However, with local players making it outside the country, especially South Africa, bit by bit, Botswana might not be that far from qualifying for the AFCON.

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