This has been one of the greatest sporting weekends for Botswana. The history making national Under-17 soccer team made it to the continental finals; two of the country’s most prominent boxers won gold medals in an European tournament and soccer ace Joel Mogorosi guided his South African team to Telkom cup victory. Congratulations to all.
The U-17 qualification in particular is a source of great pride and hope. These players have more than ten years of playing in them and with the right nurturing they have a great future ahead. With them, this country stands a chance to win big! I pay tribute to each one of them. The coach Kagiso Kobedi deserves even greater tribute. Thank you for turning these youngsters into superstars.
What remains now for these players is to go to Morocco next year and prove that they deserve to be among the leading nations of the continent in their age group. The Botswana Football Association (BFA) should now take this as an excuse to shift all their focus from the senior national team to this team. In investing in this team, the BFA will be assuring the nation of many years of high quality performance at senior level.
These players will graduate into subsequent age group competitions – the Under 20 and Under 23 – well groomed enough to secure good results. The next major task for the team would be to take the country to its first Olympic soccer final. I find no appeal to follow the senior national team anymore. It does not make a good business case for the BFA. This team – the U-17 – matters more than anything else.
Take the team to the best academies in the world during this festive season and put them in class with the best youth development coach the world can offer. I assure you; we will reap from this kind of investment for many more years to come. I cannot over-emphasise the opportunities that are bound to open for individual players as a result of this feat. We stand on a pedestal that can deliver to the world the first local player to land in a lucrative leading soccer team.
This obviously gives credence to the efforts of the soccer schools of excellence that have been going on for the past few years. If the majority of the players in this team are drawn from such, one acknowledges the efforts and encourages further investment in such schools. We cannot hope to harvest from where we never sowed. The two boxers – Oteng Oteng and Tirafalo Seoko – provide further hope that our boxing has stars that we can look up to in taking on the best in the world.
They prove that with continued investment in talent development this country can only do better. Having missed a medal in the last Olympics after being eliminated in the first round, Oteng still has time to prepare himself well for the next Olympics. The gold medal he won in the recent tournament only points to the fact that he has what it takes and with a little bit of polishing he will go places.
Seoko is equally on the right track. I have watched Mogorosi settle well at Bloemfontein Celtic, turning into a very reliable goal scoring machine that singlehandedly delivered his team to the finals and the ultimate victory in the Telkom cup. His efforts are commendable and a further good marketing strategy for other Botswana players that wish to migrate to better leagues.
He scored the only goal that won the cup for his team on Saturday night against a much-feared Mamelodi Sundowns team. Congratulations. Tsotso Ngele is equally doing well at Platinum Stars. With these many successes, the future of Botswana sport cannot be in doubt.
The worst enemy can only come from within. We have to manage the U-17 players very well to continue to get results and so is the case with the boxers and all else. Most importantly our youth development programmes deserve an increased investment. They have to be a priority. There is no other way to sustain the success