I caught glimpses of action between the national Under-23 and Lesotho on Wednesday through the live feed from the national television broadcaster, Btv. The team appeared sharp and attack minded. They had pace and connected well. It was a worthy and inspiring performance that gave one hope that the future of the Zebras is secure, at least with this team. I don’t know how long they had played together but from their play one descended coherence and comfort with various attacking options displayed. Coach Pio Paul and his assistant Mlungisi Kopi though on the edge of their seats for a greater part of the game can pride themselves with having selected a crop of players that require a little bit more working on and vast competitive exposure. Without doubt the longer this team is kept together and the more they get highly competitive opposition, including having the Botswana Football Association (BFA) organizing deliberate overseas training camp for the side the more likely we will have a very strong senior team. The team will soon be engaged in the All Africa Games and the Olympic qualifiers and my plea if resources permit is that the team be taken on an international training camp. They could go to Brazil, Argentina, Germany or Spain depending on the style of play that we are more attuned to. I know we have cultural exchange agreements with some of these countries which if activated for the good of this team will result with reduced costs of the training camp. It is important to sometime go all out to ensure that we prepare very well for major tournaments. A camp of the kind I am proposing will lift the spirit of the players and enhance the country’s chances of doing well. We need to always consider the damage we do to our players when we send them into the battlefield without having invested sufficiently for them to be able to withstand competition. This is not about football only. It is about all codes. We destroy youngsters’ careers in sport by sending them ill-prepared into highly competitive tournaments only for them to be humiliated at the end. The consequence of this is that some of the athletes end up quitting the sport all together. They couldn’t afford to be the ones who end up on the losing side.
In hailing the performance of the Young Zebras this week, one wants to appreciate the development system that has resulted with the players of their quality. I hope that they did not just happen to be this promising; they are a product of a deliberate development scheme. And if they are I wish that system is sustained and improved on. If they are not coming from soccer academies, schools of excellence or Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) development system then it is a miracle. I wish to ask the BFA to have faith in grass development and invest more resources into it. It has to force the Botswana Premier League to ensure that all its teams have development side. This must be done as a matter of urgency to safeguard the future of this country’s most loved sport. There must be a provision in the BFA Constitution about development sides, making it an offence not to have such. This is the only way that we will have a feeder system that will constantly provide high quality players for the leagues and the national soccer teams. There is no short cut. For us to develop our game and qualify for the World Cup at some stage we need to systematically invest in development. I know some teams prefer to wait until others have developed talent for them and then snap it up. There will always be competition for talent. However each team must do its bit to develop this country soccer talent. Teams must take pride in seeing players maturing from their youth structures to being the very best for them as senior players. There is more pride in this.