The Zebras’ rise in the FIFA World rankings has been hailed in local football circles. The team went up 10 steps to position 95 in the world in the latest rankings. Botswana Football Association (BFA) CEO Kitso Kemoeng could not hide his happiness at this development. Kemoeng said it is pleasing to realise that even the international community is recognising the good performance of the team.
However, Kemoeng acknowledges the team can still do well to go up the ladder. “Surely at 95 we are still far. We have to work hard to move further up,” he said. The current position is not the highest the team has ever reached. In 2010 Botswana was ranked at position 53 in the world.
A debate has ensued on whether the team will be able to keep its ascending mode. Some insist so while others are doubtful. According to soccer analysts, the Zebras are currently showing a great potential to break even into the top 50 category. This, however, they say will depend on the team’s participation in FIFA sanctioned games. The Zebras’ idleness during FIFA calendar dates has been identified as a key factor that affects the country’s ranking. Benjamin Radimo said for the team to continue going up the ladder BFA has to make sure that they play every time during the FIFA calendar dates. Radimo said this will help them accumulate more points and elevate them to upper positions.
“BFA should not relax from here. They showed that if provided with game time they would improve in performance. There is an opportunity for growth at the moment,” he said. Radimo said these games should not be against weak and lowly ranked teams that the Zebras usually play against. “We should now move up and play stronger and high ranked teams so that we can not only gain experience but also have an opportunity to collect more points,” he advised. According to regulations, if a team defeat a higher ranked one it gets more points.
The move has been attributed to the recent sterling performances by the team. Despite losing out on the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers, the Zebras pulled a great display to defeat high ranked Mali. A win against Burkina Faso also pushed the team’s rankings up. Having been knocked out of the 2018 Russia World Cup the Zebras is now left with only the AFCON competition which will only be played from March 2016, this may affect their ranking as the team may remain idle. Kemoeng acknowledged that that at times the team stay long without game time. He said their intention is to always have the team engaged to keep its momentum. “The idea is to have the national team engaged at all times so that they are always ready for competitions. Resource constraints sometimes make this not possible,” he said.
He said they will keep working to improve the team further. Coach Peter Butler’s team has received praises for its performance. Township Rollers coach Mark Harrison said though the team has done well there is still room for improvement and urged BFA to work harder to ensure this. “There has been a great improvement in the short period that I saw the team play,” he said. According to him, Botswana needs more exports players to play outside the country. He feels if more players go out and play in other leagues they will gain more experience and exposure. “When they come together in the national team then they will do much better and lead the team to great heights,” he said.