Zebras’ winger, Phenyo Mongala, has called on his teammates to focus on excelling in next month’s 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Africa.
The Zebras will first play away in the CAR capital, Bangui, on June 2 before hosting Bafana Bafana at the University of Botswana (UB) stadium on June 9.
Ethiopia, the other side in the Zebras’ group, will face Bafana Bafana in Rustenburg, South Africa, during the opening weekend.
Since returning from the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in early February, Zebras’ players have been involved in a war of words with the Botswana Football Association (BFA) over unpaid bonuses. This has overshadowed the team’s preparations for the qualifiers.
Last week, the team’s attempt to intensify training was derailed as they did not have a proper training field to use. This was the result of differences between the BFA, the Bank of Botswana (BoB) and Duma fm over monies owed from previous sessions. The technical team’s effort to sharpen the team has, therefore, been affected.
On Wednesday night, the Zebras hosted Lesotho in a makeshift friendly game to prepare for the qualifiers. Though the Zebras won the game 3-0, the friendly did not give the technical team the kind of preparedness they needed before the demanding qualifiers. The local lads played their last friendly game against Iraq in Istanbul, Turkey, yesterday before flying off to CAR.
Despite the challenges they have faced going into the qualifiers, Mongala pointed out they have to do well in the qualifiers to improve their chances of reaching the second stage.
“I think what is important for now is to leave the boardroom politics to the administrators and concentrate on doing well in the qualifiers. We have a good team which can compete well and hoist our flag high like when we qualified for AFCON,” he said.
Mongala watched the game against Lesotho from the stands as he had just arrived from his South African club, Bloemfontein Celtic. The speedy winger is not worried that some of the players who took part at AFCON have not made the team for the CAR clash.
“I have confidence those selected have what it takes to represent the country well. All we need is the support of the nation which I believe can carry us through,” he added.
Zebras’ coach Stanley Tshosane was not entirely happy with their preparations but pointed out that it was something beyond his control. He said that when they returned from AFCON, he presented the association with a plan for the qualifiers but, as usual, they were told that the mother body does not have money.
“I would have liked to play high-profile friendly games to expose some of the new guys in the team. I’m happy that there was a lot of commitment from the players when we played Lesotho but I picked some of the things which we need to work on,” said Tshosane on Friday morning.
CAR remain a closed book to the Zebras but Tshosane is not that worried. He asserted that if they can prepare well, they can get a result in the unknown territory.
Since qualifying for AFCON, the Zebras have attracted a lot of attention and there is no doubt that CAR would prove to be tough customers. Though they were not part of the Zebras’ game against Iraq yesterday, it is expected that midfielders Mogogi Gabonamong (Supersport United) and Boitumelo Mafoko (Cape Town Santos) would join the Zebras in Bangui. South African-based striker Moemedi ‘Jomo’ Moatlhaping and Extension Gunners’ midfielder Ofentse Mmipi did not travel due to injuries while Nico United midfielder Richard Legwaila has been left out due to passport problems.