Soccer fans and the nation at large might be angry that the Zebras lost to Madagascar by a solitary goal, and thus killing any slim chance for the team to make it to the next stage of the competition and eventually making it to Angola in 2010.
However, there seems to be more than meets the eye following the loss and the results were actually disappointing but not surprising. Information reaching Sunday Standard is that the game nearly got aborted as players wanted to strike if they were not paid allowances owed to them by the Botswana Football Association.
It is reported that the day before the game was marred by crisis as the Zebras players confronted the delegation.
The players’ demand for their salaries is said to have had a negative impact on the coach’s plans because he could not do anything practical to prepare the team.
It was only after a long tussle with the players that they agreed to play the following day. Information reaching this publication also suggests that foreign-based players discouraged players from boycotting the game saying they should use the appropriate channels to vent their grievances, but certain local players (known to Sunday Standard) would not budge and demanded their money.
“Generally, the foreign based players were not involved in this saga but certain local ones who also influenced others, especially those who are new. There were those local players that wanted to play and air their grievances latter, but they were labeled Malope (bootlickers) and were forced to demand their money on the spot by other players,” said a source at the BFA who preferred anonymity.
Other allegations coming from the Zebras camp say that certain players who felt threatened by new players called into camp by coach Tshosane did all they could to get their money from the BFA because their days were numbered.
Others are even reported to be disrespecting coach Tshosane and even going on record saying they want to be coached by a white person. The source also told Sunday Standard that some changes in the Zebras line up were forced on the coach because he had no choice. “Before the team left for Madagascar, coach Tshosane received information that two players would not be going citing fatigue, but it latter turned out that the said players were going. In these circumstances how would the coach coordinate the team well? It is definitely uncalled for and someone is to blame for all this mess,” said the source.
Tshosane did not want to comment much about the incidents concerning the Madagascar trip, but he was a worried man and very concerned about the general picture of the team.
He, however, added that the Madagascar incidents had a very negative impact on the game.
“This is not the first time for this incident to happen and it is continuing. Playing with one leg inside the field of play while the other one is outside will not bring desired results. This is not good at all and we have lost the best chance to make it to the next stage. Definitely, we could have buried Madagascar but let’s hope everything will be fine as the time goes on,” he said.
Efforts to get a comment from BFA’s chief executive officer, Mooketsi ‘Tosh’ Kgotlele, were not successful at the time of going to press. Kgotlele was reported to be locked in a meeting.
The Madagascar incident is the third one for the Zebras and some people have started questioning some players’ loyalty to the team.
The first one was in 2006 in Morocco during qualifiers for 2006 AFCON/World Cup. The players held the country at ransom, demanding immediate payment or else they would not play. The BFA ended up trying to send a second string team because they felt the players betrayed the country. The team ended up playing and lost to Morocco by a solitary goal.
The second incident was last year in South Africa during the COSAFA Castle Cup. The players once again held the country at ransom and went on to lose by a solitary goal in a game they could have easily won.
What was more painful then was that the Zebras lost to a third string South African side.
The way forward
ÔÇó Mindset of the players should change to put the nation’s interests first
ÔÇó Rampant age cheating should come to an end
After throwing away the game they could have easily won and missing out on making their maiden appearance at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, a lot is being said within soccer circles.
People are calling for a wholesale change to the team and even sacking of the coach and some team officials.
The loss for the Zebras means that, with the exception of COSAFA, the Zebras are only going to be active after 2010. This then means there will almost be nothing to cheer for in soccer for close to two years. Some people believe there should be changes if the Zebras if Botswana entertains any hopes of turning into a soccer powerhouse. Under 20 coach, Teenage Mpote, is of the view that firing a coach would not help in any way. He said the main problem lies with the players who lack patriotism, adding that it is unfortunate that many players are associating professionalism with money, which he said is wrong.
Mpote said indeed money is an integral part of our lives but certain sacrifices have to be made to have even more money.
“Of course, there is a problem with our players and that should change. What pains the most is that they make threats ahead of vital games and what can we achieve under such circumstances. Had they won some of those games they were going to be spotted while playing against some of the top teams and they would in turn earn a lot of money. I am of the view that once players are promised money, especially at national team level, there is no way they cannot be paid; their mindset should definitely change,” Mpote said.
There are many good players emerging from both the under 17 and 20 and in few years, he said, and they can make the core of the Zebras. One high ranking soccer official who preferred anonymity pointed a finger at the country’s technical officers.
He said there is rampant age cheating that is robbing the country of a lot of talent. The official said it is now coming out into the open that age cheating never takes a country anywhere but in Botswana it looks like it is a daily happening.
“At least for now it is better for our under 17s and 20s because most of the players are within their age limits. But if you look at the past Under 23, less than a quarter of the team was under age while the rest were too old. I can tell if most of such players are put in the team it would not take long before they fade out. It was a blessing we did not qualify so that we could go back to the drawing board,” he said. The official also stressed that it is about time some officials at Lekidi Centre are shown the door because they have not done anything despite serving for a long time.