The Botswana Premier League (BPL) has confirmed the change in the number of youth players each team can register this season. BPL teams are now allowed to register five U-20 players as part of their 30-man squad quota. In the past teams were mandated to have five U-17 players in their teams in addition to the 25 senior players. The change was confirmed by BPL acting Chief Executive Officer Thabo Ntshinogang this week. Ntshinogang said the change came following a motion from the clubs calling for the age limit to be increased from 17 to 20 years. He said the new regulation was in effect in the just-ended transfer window. He said affiliates advanced concerns that most coaches did not use U-17 players in their squads, hence their appeal that the limit be increased to 20 years. Other reasons advanced for the increase are that since the U-17 players are school going, they had a problem when it came to training with the team. “Most of the premier league teams have their training in the mornings and at this time these players would be at school and team officials felt the players do not have proper interaction with the rest of the team,” said Ntshinogang. Asked if as the BPL office they feel this is a good move, Ntshinogang said he hopes it will be beneficial to the teams. “Since they are the ones who anonymously voted for the change I guess it will work for them. They are the ones who know what is happening on the ground so if they feel that is what is good for them then it is fine,” he said.
BPL affiliates, on the other hand, have welcomed the change as a great development. Township Rollers Secretary General Khumo Masonya said this is a welcome development since the U-17 players always find it difficult to break into starting teams. Masonya said since these players are school going it was always hard for them to train with the team. He said this is why it was rare for them to break into the starting team. “The players are always on the bench and this was not good for them as it demoralised them,” he said. Orapa United spokesperson Kabo William concurred, saying this will help them to get more experienced players as U-20s are a bit experienced. He also said the change will give U-17 players the time to gain more experience before they are introduced to top flight football. Just like Masonya, William feels there is no progress in signing the players only for them to sit on the bench and not play. “The young players always found it difficult to break into the first team and this change will give them the chance to play with their age mates in other establishments,” he said.
Quizzed if the change will not defeat the development of young players from a young age as it was first intended, William said there are other leagues like the Botswana Football Association (BFA) youth league that offers opportunity of growth for the players. “I have always felt like the players are being rushed into top flight football even though they are still young and inexperienced. The youth league will give them the chance to grow before they can go to Premier league,” said William. Ntshinogang also pointed out that the youth league will come handy to the young players. He also added that since the clubs are required to have youth teams the young players will have the chance to be developed at that stage.