Just three months into office, the newly elected Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership, led by businessman Maclean Letshwiti, has started fulfilling their campaign promise to turn around the fortunes of local football. On Wednesday the BFA launched the 2016/17 Youth League to augment grassroots development, in an effort to improve and enhance the standard of local football. The long awaited youth league which starts over the weekend is expected to reach around 25 500 children across all 17 BFA regions. About 20 teams of both boys and girls of U-13, U-15 and U-17 age groups are expected to take part in the youth league. For a long time lack of a youth league in Botswana has been a cause for concern in the sports fraternity. They have been calling for the establishment for a youth league to help improve the standard of local football. Speaking at the launch Letshwiti said the BFA said the youth league initiative is to transform Botswana football into a globally competitive knowledge through an effective development programme. He explained that the mandate off the project is to To create a pool of well developed athletes which would help increase the chances of Botswana to qualify for the world major competitions, and compete meaningfully in football.
“The youth league will also provide alternative employment opportunities through football as well as help push the country’s agenda of economic difersification,” said Letshwiti. The BFA president however acknowlegded that the journey will not be an easy one. He therefore called on all the stakeholders to come on board to make sure that the project become a success. Football apparel and other training equipment have been handed over to the BFA technical director to be used by the regions for the league. The Youth League received a massive welcome from football loving people who believe that it is what the country has been needing to start producing good results at senior team level. Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) chairman Solly Reikeletseng said this is a move in the right direction for BFA. Reikeletseg said for a long time a lot of money has been spent on football which was used on competitions than on development. “This project is therefore a step in the right direction as now more money will be spent on development of players from a young age,” he said.
Reikeletseng said the league has come at a good time when there is a need for rejuvenation of the national teams. According to him the development of players at a young age might help in this. He called for retired players to be used in this project for them to impart knowledge on the young players. “This promises to be the future of Botswana football so retired players should be roped in to make sure it does," said Reikeletseng. He challenged the BFA leadership also make a decision on taking part in government developmental programmes such as the constituency league. Next to complement the BFA on the youth league programme is former zebras and BDF XI captain Mompati Thuma. Thuma said for local football to continue growing and have consistency there is need for grassroots development. “For us to keep growing we cannot start from the top but need to build the base first,” he said. He pointed out that currently most of the players that are playing in the senior team have not been through the development levels.
Thuma said the youth league will help players to go through all the development stages, a process which will create consistency on the players. Thuma and the likes of Diphetogo Selolwane are some of the players that have been privileged to go through all the developmental ranks and they became to be part of the team that qualified Botswana to her first ever AFCON participation in 2012. It is believed that the youth league will help Botswana qualify for more regional and international competitions in the long ran as a pool of players will be produced. Zebras coach Peter Butler also welcomed the Youth League saying it is a great initiative. Butler however said it is going to be project that needs hard work and high level determination to see it produce intended results. He explained that development is a crucial part in football. He said with a good developmental structure there will be a big pool of players to feed the national teams. Butler went on to say if it can produce the intended results the project will help improve local football.