For a positive change, the ladies senior national football team, the Mares, have the nation all pumped up ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualifier games.
Life has undoubtedly been breathed into the once struggling Botswana ladies side. The Brave Gladiators of Namibia can attest to the fact that the current Mares’ form is nothing they have experienced during any of their previous encounters. Coach Gaolothoo Nkutusang’s side left Namibia all miserable and kicked to a very lonely place in a period of five days. During the first leg of the Olympic qualifiers played in Gaborone this past Friday, the Mares walked into the pitch oozing with nothing but clear confidence.
The cool breeze emanating from the fast approaching winter season sent chills down the spine even before the game started. Perhaps indicating that, what was in store in the 90 minutes was not anticipated.
From the whistle blow, the local side made their intentions clear and it did not come as a surprise when Refilwe Tholakele eventually found the back of the net to silence any hopes of Namibia pinning Botswana to a goalless draw. All breathing gaps were entirely blocked by team Botswana and the Namibians found all their ball tricks fly off the window as they desperately pushed for an equalizing goal. The audience interestingly had not disappointed either, the attendance was quite impressive and perhaps the ladies picked the positive energy and converted it to a performance of blazing ferocity.
When playing a return leg of the game in Namibia this past Tuesday, the local girls cemented their bold statement that they mean business. An early goal from the Gladiators did not anyhow dampen their spirits, and if anything, the ladies came out fiercer than ever. Namibia had at the back of their minds anticipated that they would use the home ground advantage. It all came falling down when Botswana equalized the scores to tie the Brave Gladiators to a 2-2 score line. This meant that the Mares on aggregate, qualified for the next round of the Olympic qualifiers. It is an achievement that the Mares have effortlessly worked for. Namibia has in the past been a pain to deal with and for more than a decade; Botswana has never been able to penetrate the Namibian defence.
It is victory that will surely go down the history books and perhaps a new era for Botswana football. Given the dullness that had engulfed women football locally, an improvement in performance can perhaps lighten up the mood. The ladies are eagerly hoping to gain the recognition that has surrounded men football.
Nevertheless, Botswana will once again be forced to prove that the stellar performance against Namibia was not a fluke. A tough assignment in South Africa’s Banyana Banyana awaits the local ladies in the next round. There can never be any better time to once again challenge the menacing side of Banyana Banyana. Botswana’s last encounter with the South African based side was during the 2018 COSAFA group stages.
Banyana Banyana had at the time struggled to break the Mares defence and just when SA thought that they were nearer to netting more goals, goalkeeper Sedilame Bosija of Botswana proved to be another hurdle Banyana Banyana was never ready for.
Bosija blocked every little chance of SA scoring and even denying them a clear given penalty. It was only in the dying minutes of the game that Botswana handed their opponents their much-needed goal.