Botswana Football Association has welcomed the Confederation of African Football (CAF) decision to increase the number of teams for 2019 AFCON finals from 16 to 24. BFA spokesperson Tumo Mpatane said this is a very noble gesture, as it gives more nations the chance to participate at Africa’s top flight football. Mpatane said the move will also give the Zebras an improved opportunity to qualify for the 2019 AFCON for the second time since 2012. Mpatane was, however, quick to point out that this does not mean that the team has to relax. He said they have to work equally hard to make sure that if they qualify they can represent the country well at the competition. He also said this will not only be a plus for the teams but the African football as a whole. “The increase of teams now means even the hosting requirements will be changed as certain infrastructure is needed. This means the governments will now have to invest more on infrastructure development which will help improve football in the continent,” said Mpatane.
The change, however, did not sit well with some football analysts who say it will lower the standard of competition. The analysts argue that the increase in teams will result in lowered competitiveness since even poorly performing countries might qualify. They say this might further erode the already falling competitiveness. Though Mpatane did not go into detail concerning this, he acknowledged that this increase must not be looked from only one side. “We need to look at this from two folds – the other being how the increase might affect the competitiveness at the tournament,” he said. After being eliminated from all the other competitions they were participating in, focus now shifts to the 2019 AFCON qualifiers for the Zebras. The team has amble time to prepare for the competition as its next game against Angola will be played on the 27th March 2018. This gives newly appointed head coach Major David Bright time to hone his team for the competition. CAF’s decision to increase the number of teams might come handy for Bright whose mandate among others is to qualify for the 2019 Cameroon AFCON competition. During his unveiling as the national team coach Bright said this is an achievable task and he promised to attain it.
Mpatane confirmed that now the focus will definitely be shifting to AFCON as it is the only competition that the Zebras are left with at the moment. Quizzed if the financial constraints at the association will not affect the team’s preparations, he said it will not. Mpatane said BFA is directly responsible for the junior teams and the senior team is catered for by Botswana National Sport Commission and the Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture Development. “I can assure you that the national team will not be affected by the financial constraint since its funding is catered for from the two entities,” said Mpatane.