Tuesday, 05 May 2015 14:41

BPL steps in the right direction

Botswana Premier League this week stepped in the right direction when they announced that this year’s beMOBILE Premier League Awards will feature new categories to recognise young players and goalkeepers.

In fact there have been widespread calls for BPL to include the said categories so as to encourage growth and confidence in upcoming youngsters who have lacked recognition despite their instrumental contributions in their respective teams. Even coaches in the past have overlooked youngsters for experienced and older players. The Young Player of the Season Award will now encourage local coaches to give these motivated young players an opportunity to shine.

It will also boost the coach’s confidence that he has contributed to the growth of a future star player. Lack of youth recognition has even affected the national team progress in international competitions as they had to rely more on the old guards as there was minimal young talent to use. Even when the national Under 17 team players had promising talent, they would end up in the wilderness as big clubs would be reluctant to use them even when they may have registered them. This award will motivate young players to be brave enough to even try their luck as far as Europe after excelling in the domestic league.

It will give them the confidence that they can make it anywhere in the world. In other world leagues these awards have been taken very seriously and the member associations have even made rules that teams should feature a certain number of young players in their squads. In South Africa it is compulsory for First Division teams to have a specified number of Under 23 players in their first eleven whenever they play any competitive league. Although this category will encourage local coaches to start using young players as there is motivation for them to excel, it is not enough to promote youth development.

The Premier League must make it standard practice for every team to have development teams. Another new category of Goalkeeper of the Season has also been added to the awards. Just like Young Player of the Season, goalkeepers have had to compete with other players for other accolades. Hitherto, goalkeepers were only recognized by other competitions such as Coca-Cola Cup and Mascom Top 8. Some of the goalkeepers like Kabelo Dambe that won the said award went to play outside, while others earned national team call ups.

Dambe is currently with Platinum Stars. The premier league this week announced Kabelo Seakanyeng, Goitseone Phoko and Onkabetse Makgantai as nominees for Young Player of the Season while nominees for Goalkeeper of the Season are Goitseone Phoko, Mosimanegape Robert and Basimanebotlhe Moilwa.

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 28 April 2015 15:57

Pio Paul’s moment of reckoning

Keitumetse Pio Paul last sat on the bench as part of the National Under-23 technical team in 2012 as assistant to former National Under-23 coach Daniel Nare. At the time, they were tasked with leading Botswana’s National Under-23 team in both the All Africa Games and Olympic qualifiers.

Three years down the line, Paul serves as current National team assistant coach to Peter Butler. This is the norm in many other African countries. As a national team assistant coach, he has been tasked with leading the future Zebras in All Africa Games and Olympic qualifiers. Paul will start his African assignment this Friday at the Lobatse Sports Complex, where he is expected to inspire his youthful side in qualifying for the tournament’s finals.

Many countries in Africa, which later became football powerhouses, used such competitions to set the tone for their future senior national team successes. Countries like Egypt, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Senegal among others have proved to be a force to reckon with in African football. In fact, after succeeding in these tournaments their players went on to play overseas. It is in these tournaments that young players develop winning mentalities and appreciate the importance of representing their countries. They can even set their personal targets with respect to their football careers. It is a strong Young Zebras outfit that will this Friday gallop against an enigmatic Kenyan side – notably, the East Africans boast two international players, Louis Misiko who plays for OGC Nice in France and Antony Mbungua of Apoel Tel Aviv of Israel.

The local team on the other hand boasts a strong squad composed of local premier league players who are complemented by a few who have senior national team experience having played in recent international games. This has brought a sense of optimism in their camp that they can beat their opponents. Botswana, just like Kenya, are in a rebuilding phase, in fact Botswana’s target has been to build a strong side that can qualify for AFCON 2017 in Gabon, hence some of Paul’s players have featured in the senior team. On the other hand, Kenya is coached by a Scottish national, Bobby Williamson. He doubles as their senior national team head coach and is using these qualifiers to prepare a team that will compete in their 2017 AFCON Group E qualifiers. On Tuesday Williamson claimed that his team was yet to be where he wants it to be.

“They may be inexperienced but I know that the more they play together the better they will become, and if they beat Botswana then that will confirm that they are capable of taking on our AFCON opponents,” he told Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation. His team manager Simon Muluma said they are seeking to come out with the best possible result from this tie. However, Paul seems to understand the Kenyan style of play, saying he knows his opponents to play with speed and power, adding that their body structures allow them to be direct. He told BG Sports he would not leave anything to chance. “We are prepared for them. I am confident that we will beat them,” Paul asserted. He said they have been working hard and that he has faith in his players and the technical team. Paul, who played for Township Rollers at the age of 17 and also graduated through all junior national teams, is expected to impart his aggressive and competitive attitude on the young players to see them through to the next phase of the tournament.

“I plead with supporters to come in numbers, we really need them and their sake and ours, we will give our 110 percent,” he promised. Paul will once again rely on Kabelo Seakanyeng, Mpho Kgopo and Karabo Phiri. They all scored in the recent friendly international games. Meanwhile the Kenyan team was expected in Gaborone this week from Moi International Sports Centre where they had been based.  The return leg will be played on May 9 at Nyayo National Stadium. Entrance fee for the Friday match is P10.00

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 08 April 2015 17:01

Zebras drawn against Burkina Faso

The Zebras have been drawn in Group D for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers following the draw held today in Cairo.  

At the event, Gabon was named as the hosts of the 2017 AFCON finals beating Ghana and aAlgeria to the hosting rights of the 31st edition of Africa Cup of Nations. Gabon co-hosted the 2012 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations with neighbours, Equatirial Guinea.

Meanwhile, Botswana which is ranked 30th in Africa will face Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Comoros in Group D.  Burkina Faso and Uganda both rank above Botswana at 19th and 20th in Africa respectively. The Comoros is only ranked at 47 out of 54 in Africa.  

Only the group winners and two best second placed teams will qualify for the finals to be held in Gabon.

Results of AFCON 2017 qualifiers draw

Group A: Tunisia, Togo, Liberia Djibouti

Group B: DR Congo, Angola, Central African Republi, Madagascar

Group C: Mali, Equatorial Guinea, Benin, South Sudan

Group D: Burkina Faso, Uganda, Botswana, Comoros

Group E: Zambia, Congo, Kenya, Guinea Bissau

Group F: Cape Verde, Morocco, Libya, Sao Tome

Group G: Nigeria, Egypt, Tanzania, Chad

Group H: Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Mauritius

Group I: Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Gabon

Group J: Algeria, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Seychelles

Group K: Senegal, Niger, Namibia, Burundi

Group L: Guinea, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland

Group M: Cameroon, South Africa, Gambia

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 03 March 2015 09:29

Battle for regional supremacy

The preliminary round of the CAF Champions League qualifiers concludes this weekend throughout Africa, and here in Gaborone on Saturday afternoon, Botswana’s biggest soccer entity, Township Rollers, come face to face with South Africa’s log leaders, Kaizer Chiefs.

Many are looking forward to this epic encounter that is expected to see the National Stadium in Gaborone filled to capacity, much because of the appeal the two teams exude here and in South Africa alike. Yes, in South Africa, the best that people know about club football in Botswana is Township Rollers, just as the majority of soccer lovers in Botswana know more about Kaizer Chiefs than they do about the rest.

This has thus set the stage up for what should be a spectacle of Hollywood proportions as not only showbiz icons like Vee, DJ Fondo Fire and Alfredo Mos will grace the glitzy green carpet of the soccer venue, but also on show will be celebrated stars in the mould of Segolame Boy, Motsholetsi Sikele, Bernard Parker, Sekhana Nando’s Koko and Reneilwe Letsholonyane to name a few. Almost all of these football icons are the most idolised by their respective people, and to see them together on the same stage will be a sight to behold. This weekend’s encounter marks the second leg of the preliminary round qualifier after Chiefs were lucky to come out of the first leg installment with an undeserved 2-1 victory at the humongous 90 000-capacity FNB Stadium a fortnight ago.

Just as the South African club’s coach Stuart Baxter admitted after that clash, Rollers had presented more questions to Chiefs than – as they said – they had anticipated. The match’s opening goal scorer Matthew Rusike actually added that Rollers were “tougher than we had expected.” Describing the number of Southern African clubs as somewhat “mickey mouse,” Baxter acknowledged that in Rollers they had rather come up against a different kind of animal, and that when they come to Botswana for the second leg, they will “defend fiercely” against a “dangerous” club his players let off the hook.

Yet Rollers never really looked at themselves as inferior to their opponents as loudly suggested in the comments of especially Rusike. Nando’s Koko had before their sojourn to the South Western Townships (Soweto) of Johannesburg - where they played like warriors - warned that they were going there as local league champions to slug it out with the champions of South Africa for the ultimate place in the final stages of the continent’s league of champions. And the Rollers machine is still hopeful, filled with belief that the scales are more tilted to their side this time than they are to Chiefs – despite the one goal deficit. Many actually know that a 1-0 victory for Rollers, a glaring possibility this Saturday, will see the club also known as Mapalastina surge forward to the next and penultimate round of the qualifiers.

And this will not be a strange feat for a Botswana side against a gloated South African opposition. Gaborone United eliminated Orlando Pirates from the same competition in 2010 on an away goal rule, perhaps a stark reminder to doubting Thomases that the ‘glamour’ tag often attached to the South African sides has not always translated into glamorous results on the field against local opposition. And, admittedly, Chiefs are not approaching this weekend’s encounter with any illusions not any more. Baxter’s media comments leading to this weekend are indicative of a man who has borrowed from Shakespeare’s warning in Macbeth – that ‘security is mortals’ chiefest enemy.’ Simply put, overconfidence is often the worst enemy of human beings, that the false hope of being untouchable by Chiefs’ players could be their undoing. Such has been the underlying theme of classical tragedies where the tragic hero had deemed himself invincible before being vanquished, also underlined in the epic biblical clash of David and Goliath. 

And such is the tragedy that can befall Chiefs, as it happened with their Soweto buddies against Gaborone United some five years ago in Port Elizabeth. If Baxter’s boys had ignored that Pirates/United CAF tie as a lesson, then their lucky victory over Rollers two weekends ago must have now given them something to think about – that in this game, there should be no Goliath attitude as both sides have an equal chance of progressing to the next stage. Rollers’ players and their coach are thus warned not to let their away goal in South Africa go to their heads and fool them into believing that their opponents will be easier on the home turf. Chiefs have never lost a match at the 20 000 capacity national stadium.

They beat Mochudi Centre Chiefs there last year; they have in fact beaten Mapalastina on penalties at the same venue some years back in some HIV/AIDS related charitable tournament dubbed Show You Care, and they beat Extension Gunners in the early 90s in another CAF Champions league equivalent – then called the CAF Champs of Champions. Besides, they might be buoyed here by their thousands of resident supporters who are likely to surpass the few hundreds the Soweto club attracted at FNB Stadium.

While Baxter has promised a different approach meant to finish off Mapalastina, Rollers’ Coach Madinda Ndlovu, has drawn confidence from now knowing his opponents better. An astute tactician endowed with the scheming intelligence of a warlord, Ndlovu might just come up with a master class that will leave Chiefs panting and not knowing what hit them. And he has the players with the right kind of mentality to do so.

The likes of Boy, Koko, Thato Bolweleng, Sikele, Maano Ditshupo and Jerome Louis seem to have a sharp ear and seem to heed command to the letter, much like an enigmatic cop dog. It was the instruction they so accurately mastered that saw most of the Chiefs’ stars fail to impress in the first leg. But Baxter now knows better too, and could throw in the likes of David Zulu, experienced Katlego Mphela and a host of other first leg absentees to augment the line-up that clearly failed to click in Soweto. Perhaps it will be a stage the likes of Willard Katsande, George Lebese and Siphiwe Tshabalala will want to shine. Both sides meet after impressive victories in their respective domestic cup competitions, a 4-0 win against SA lower division side Edu Sport FC in the Nedbank Cup for Chiefs, and a 2-1 victory over defending champions BDF XI in the Mascom Top 8 Cup for Rollers. Perhaps Ndlovu was hoping to save the best for Saturday when Koko, Sikele and Ditshupo were made to play a fraction of their cup game while altogether not using Bolweleng and goalkeeper Mwampule Masule.

Whatever the result on Saturday, the South Africans will go back home with a changed attitude towards local football. Rollers on the other hand would have shown why the likes of Joel Mogorosi, Mogogi Gabonamong, Terrence Mandaza, Kabelo Dambe, Mogakolodi Ngele and Phenyo Mongala, have been such a success in the ABSA Premier League – all of them former Rollers’ players.

Published in Sports
Monday, 23 February 2015 09:23

BFA chief Keith Masters resigns

Embattled Botswana Football Association (BFA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Keith Masters has handed in his resignation and is already serving notice at Lekidi, inside sources said this week.

The resignation comes after local security agents stormed the Briton’s office at Lekidi recently where they found stacks of controlled drug, Viagra and pornographic material that contravened local cyber crime laws. The raid at Lekidi came at a time when Masters’ performance was already under scrutiny by the BFA National Executive Committee (NEC). Amidst such pressures and a media storm following the raid, Masters who came to BFA with vast experience as a former CEO of Kent County Football Association in Britain, was forced to do the honourable thing. “It is not clear yet when he will leave the country,” BFA sources said.

Masters was met with hype and fanfare when he arrived at Lekidi. His three-year contract with BFA in February 2013 was meant to transform the association into a sustainable profit making entity. The controversial Briton arrived just six months after BFA president Tebogo Sebego and his Friends of Football cabal ascended to power after ousting David Fani’s committee. Masters, dubbed the ‘Messiah from England’ when he was hired, was assigned the mandate to commercialise football, but ever since he has complained of lack of sufficient resources and structures and failed to deliver. Masters took over from the then CEO Duncan Kgame who resigned to pave way for Tebogo Sebego’s administration, when they planned to revamp the association. Contacted for comment this week

Masters said, “Sorry I was advised not to talk about that, but I will talk about it when the time is right. I will make a statement.” Efforts to reach Sebego on the resignation allegations proved futile. Instead the BFA boss told BG Sport that he was at the National stadium watching football and cannot take questions before hanging up. Sebego’s administration has been dogged by infighting, resignations and suspensions. It remains to be seen whether Masters has a case to answer.

Published in Sports

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