Dysfunctional developmental structures have always been a cause for concern in Botswana football and Zebras Coach Peter Butler want to solve this problem. To try and address this situation, Butler recently started a youth league programme aimed at giving players transitional platform in their football career. A pilot U-21 youth league was held two weeks ago and the coach is happy with the progress. Butler said his love football, especially for grassroots development, has propelled him to start the youth league. He wants to see this country have a very strong developmental structure that will feed the national team. “This is kind of talent identification and nurturing programme for the young players,” Butler explained. He said it is sad to see a lot of kids being lost in the system because of lack of a proper pathway for them. He said the youth league will give the U-21 players a platform where they can play competitive football against their age mates. When explaining the model of the youth league Butler said it is open to young players under the age of 21 with age restriction being 1st January 2017.
However an additional two players over the age of 21 and not older than 23 years will be allowed. The league will be played over a 10-week period with 10 teams battling it out. “There will also be play-offs for the teams that finish in top four positions. Twenty-five players will also be selected throughout the league to undergo the Elite Player Performance Plan programme,” he said. This cleared the air on whether the youth league will not be a duplicate of the one run by the Botswana Football Association (BFA). According to him, this will be an extension of what the BFA is doing since it runs a U-17 league. Normally after this category players are left without a platform to showcase their talent with only a few absorbed by premier teams. “This youth league is a way of creating a pathway for the young players who are not absorbed into teams to have continuity in their footballing careers,” he explained.
Following the pilot phase of the youth held two weeks ago, Butler is delighted with the progress. He said that he is amazed by the talent the country has, saying if developed further local football will grow. The Englishman – who has always been known for his enthusiasm to give young players a chance to play – said he wishes to see this country have strong youth development programmes. It was under Butler’s period as coach that Batswana saw the emergence of young players like Omaatla Kebatho, Lebogang Ditsile, Tapiwa Gadibolae and Onkabetse Makgantai. Butler, who seems to have enjoyed his stay in Botswana, said he would like to stay and see his initiatives through. However, the coach’s contract is coming to an end in March this year. “I love what I do and I would like to stay but everything is in BFA’s court,” said Butler. He is yet to receive an offer from the BFA for his contract renewal.