Lessons for Botswana

SHARE   |   Sunday, 20 July 2014   |   By Mpho Debeela

Technical Director of Botswana Football Association (BFA) and his team have a chance to do something good for this country – to study how Germany developed its exclusive soccer style to eventually become world champions, again. This should culminate with the development of Botswana’s own system of play, religiously implemented at every soccer ground across the country. I trust the leaders of the game and even the government, that appears to love soccer (Constituency league) would prefer a well-structured approach to the game. Perhaps our players don’t bend the foot as much as they should; don’t run into space when they should, fail to execute timely tackles and even horrible in taking an aim at the goals. There is need for a deliberate shift to ensure we just don’t play football for the sake of it – a national style (syllabus) as the Germans realised long ago should be our priority as well.

Since we are not trigger-happy in front of goals, we should not be so in firing coaches. The Germans have made it not only by developing their aggressive and direct football style they invested loyally in a long term strategy. When Joachim Low didn’t win the World Cup in 2010, he was not shown the door. He was given time to work on his and country’s plan. Leaders of his game even promised him that he would not be shown the door if he didn’t win his semi-final game in the just ended World Cup. This took the pressure from him and ensured that he focused his team to ultimate glory.

Meanwhile here, we lack long term vision; and because we don’t have one, we barely allow coaches to try out approaches. Any few losses are good enough for them to be shown the door. We need to move from half-hearted and temporary measures to enduring and rewarding long-term solutions. Perhaps short-term nature of tenures of leaders is the cause of our problems. Even more, the lack of resources to spend on long-term programmes could be affecting everything. However, a strong secretariat that is driven by commitment and a dream to permanently change the landscape of the game should stand up and make a very strong case that we cannot continue with the ‘short-term approach’. The secretariat can start with a proposal of 10-year radical approach to the game. I know the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) has its revised vision. Do codes like BFA have their own visions to feed into the main one and how, if they do, have they gone to market and enforce such?

The continual humiliation of the youth sides – Under-17s – usually called in at short-notice shows the lack of long-term planning and absence of a winning football style that we should swiftly move to establish. We cannot continue like this. We are playing Guinea Bissau in the second round of the AFCON qualifiers. A win matters to most. To me it is a question of the squad’s composition – who among the players are aged 23 and below. It is the style of play – it is the style that can make us withstand every opposition. Style has everything to do with the technical approach and the quality of players at the disposal of the coach to make such technique work. It is changed on the basis of what the opposition offers. Coach Peter Butler has done well so far to reach the second stage of the qualifiers. Competition gets stiff at every stage and one hopes he has what it takes to raise the country’s soccer profile. He could if he does well, become a catalyst for us to take our game more seriously.

Much more importantly it is a deliberate systematic approach that prioritises youth development and honing of winning style that will take us places.