It is without doubt every Motswana’s desire to see the Zebras reproduce the 2012 magic by qualifying for the 2019 AFCON competition. However, the team has failed in recent years to come close to this. Soccer analysts have often blamed this on negligence by those handling the team. They have cited poor preparations as a major contributor to the poor performance of the team in competitions. Some even believe that it will take years for Zebras to qualify for AFCON again if things stay the same. Sport analyst, Jimmy George, said key to the team’s qualification is proper preparations. George believes that for the Zebras to start doing well Botswana Football Association (BFA) should ensure proper and intense preparations for the team. He said a well-planned preparations strategy is needed for the team to win a major competition. “For the Zebras to qualify for the 2019 AFCON we have to take advantage of CHAN. We need to stay longer in the CHAN competition so that the players can stay together to build some momentum,” he said.George said for this to happen the team should be already in preparation mode towards the competitions. “The team needs more friendly matches to start doing well,” he insisted. However for some time BFA officials have cited the association’s lack of funds as one frustrating their efforts. George dismissed that as an invalid excuse. He said there is need for proper planning since the officials know that the team needs money to play. “Preparing the team should not be an option but it must be an integral part of building a formidable squad,” he added. The Zebras have confirmed that they will participate in two competitions this year being CHAN and 2019 AFCON qualifiers. They are drawn against neighbouring South Africa in the CHAN championships.
In the AFCON qualifiers, Botswana will be participating in Group I against Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Angola. This promises to be a tricky affair for the Zebras in both competitions. George is of a view that a proper scheduled preparation plan for the national team is essential. “For our national team to be strong and fare well in Africa we need to start seeing the junior teams more in action. It is these teams that feed the senior team so if they are not operational it is going to be difficult to be consistent,” said George. He said in 2012 when Zebras qualified for AFCON there was a very active U-23 team whose players were promoted to the national team. He called on the BFA to make sure that all the other junior teams from U-17 to U-23 play competitive matches so that there will be continuity of players graduating from one age group to the other. “It takes time for teams to win competitions. They first invest in development of players before they can rejoice of their works,” said George. Even though he commended what is being done by the national team coach Peter Butler, he said, it is not the coach’s duty to go around looking for young players to develop. He argued that the players should be readily available for the coach to use at the senior level. “Youth development should not only be the responsibility of the association. The clubs should also have their own development structures to help grow local football further,” cautioned George. BFA launched a national youth league for U-15 and U-17 boys and girls late last year. Butler has also started U-21 youth league with the aim of having continuity for players in football. George is hopeful that the introduction of youth leagues would turn fortunes around for the national team. He said the youth leagues will go a long way in addressing the situation of dormant players. “I am just hopeful that this will address the problem that has been persisting in local football for a long time,” he said.