Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Zebras in another dilemma

The Zebras, Botswana’s national soccer team, are once again facing the dilemma for their 2010 World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifications.

One of their fellow opponents, Madagascar, has been suspended by the football controlling body, FIFA. The suspension of Madagscar is with immediate effect and comes after the government of Madagascar dissolved the football controlling body and called for fresh elections. The move by the Malagasy government is against FIFA rules that do not allow interference by governments into football matters. It is the second time that Botswana has found itself in the same situation. During the qualifications for the 2006 World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations one of the opponents, Kenya, was suspended following government interference into football matters. Nevertheless, Kenya ended up putting its house in order and were welcomed back and continued with the qualification games.

What makes the situation tricky for Botswana this time around is the fact that Madagascar is supposed to be Botswana’s first opponents on May 31st.

The Technical Director of the Botswana Football Association, Losika Keatlholetswe, said the country should not read much into the situation.

“As you might be aware, the same happened in 2006 with Kenya and they ended up participating. This is a temporary measure because the Malagasy government might end up complying, resulting in the team’s return,” he said.

Keatlholetswe added that the Zebras would continue with their program as usual regardless of what happens in the island nation. Before the Madagascar game, Botswana is scheduled to play Brazilian select side and Zimbabwe. The game against Brazil will be played on the first day of April. The game against Zimbabwe will be played in Botswana taking into account the fact that all games in Zimbabwe have been put on hold until next week’s elections in Zimbabwe. Botswana is in the same group as Ivory Coast, Mozambique and Madagascar.

All of Botswana’s opponents have proved to be not easy riders. Botswana played against Madagascar on about three occasions, with Botswana winning two of the games. The first time being in 2000 for the AFCON and Botswana won the first leg by a goal, courtesy of Diphetogo Selolwane. In Madagadcar the islanders turned the tables and won 2-0, knocking out Botswana in the process. The most recent one was in 2006, during the COSAFA Castle Cup, which Botswana won 2-0.
Botswana is also yet to defeat Mozambique in official competition. The memorable victory for the Zebras over the Black Mambas was 2-0 in 2000 during the King’s Millennium Cup and a 1-0 victory at the Four Nations tournament last month in Swaziland.

As for the Ivory Coast, home or away, it is going to be tough for the Zebras. The Ivorians have big names in top leagues around the world. A victory will be a great achievement for the Zebras.
The best result was a goalless draw in 1993 at the National Stadium during the AFCON qualifiers.

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Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 30, 2020.