BY GODFREY MOWANENG
Since campaigning in the qualifiers of the African football extravaganza decades ago, Botswana national football team, the Zebras will for the first time try their luck to qualify for the Afcon finals against two of their regional counterparts. The Zebras have been pitted in a group with two COSAFA region nations Zambia and Zimbabwe together with 2019 Afcon finalists Algeria.
While in the past the team travelled as far as north and west Africa against the likes of Senegal, Burkina Faso, Tunisia and Egypt for their qualifiers, the 2021 Cameroon Afcon qualifiers will witness the Zebras travelling short distances due to border bond with the likes of Zambian Chipolopolo and Warriors of Zimbabwe.
In a CAF executive committee meeting held in Cairo Egypt on the 17th July 2019, the qualifiers are expected to commence in October 2019 with the preliminary rounds kick starting the search for qualifying. Group matches are expected to start in August 2020, a season which also will witness national teams hectic schedule due to the upcoming qualifiers in search for qualifying to the 2022 World cup.
While Algeria and Zimbabwe remain the two nations to have competed in the just ended Egypt 2019 Afcon finals in the group, Botswana Football Association (BFA) is confident they will make it to the 2021 Cameroon showpiece. The local football mother body is excited that while two nations qualify for the Afcon finals in each group, there is high chance that they qualify as their aim is to win all home games.
“It is exciting that we will be playing nations we are familiar with in terms of style of play. We have played Zimbabwe and Zambia in the COSAFA cup and understand them better and believe we will make it this time after almost a decade since our maiden appearance at the championships in 2012,” BFA mouthpiece Tumo Mpatane told Sunday Standard.
He said with Zambia and Zimbabwe in the same region as Botswana, it is an advantage as they will acclimatise easily during away encounters. ‘’We will not be bothered much by the weather conditions when playing away against our neighbours as our weather does not differ much. We will also not be under pressure of playing reverse matches after long travelling like in the past qualifiers where we had to play two matches between three days including long distance travelling,” said Mpatane.
He concluded saying ‘’it is also interesting that some of our players are now going for trials in Europe. The likes of Thatayaone Kgamanyane and Kabelo Seakanyeng went to trials abroad which is a positive impact as we are just a few months from commencing qualifier matches”.