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AFCON 2021: Will the Zebras gallop again?

For far too long, Botswana has become more of a spectator in the African Cup of Nations qualifying race. The future of this footballing nation mirrors a tomorrow that may never come. Ever since the remarkable and buccaneering record set during the wonderful reign of coach Stanley Tshosane, The Zebras has been nothing but dull.

Four AFCON finals passed without hearing anything from this country. Other than hiring and sacking coaches, Zebras has struggled to find its way out of mediocre zone. Just a year after returning from their maiden AFCON 2012, The Zebras drew the Eagles of Mali and entered immediately into a cul de sac. The Zebras were hammered 7-1 aggregate in a preliminary stage as 2012 accolades began to fall apart.

That feeble performance was never tamed but spread dangerously into the 2015 qualifying campaign. The team, under the stewardship of Peter Butler, managed only a point after six outings. While it is harsh to condemn the Butler assembled side, it is also apposite to accept that the Zebras was drawn in a rather difficult group that consisted African heavy weights from West and North. There was Egypt, Senegal and Tunisia. Between 2015 and 2017 qualifiers, the pattern never changed. The Zebras struggled to break psychological barrier, playing 6 games and scoring only once.

But as the Zebras begin to prepare for fifth AFCON finals since 2012, having drawn tougher opponents that includes African champions Algeria and perennial campaigners Zimbabwe and Zambia, the contrast with these nation’ squad buoyancy could not be starker.
For Algeria, the 2019 edition has been a wonderful, hard-earned moment of sporting grace for a nation once riddled by political instability. They turned the corner on the back yard of their neighbors, Egypt to win their second cup in 20 years. Therefore, The Zebras could be haunted by their failure to tame the North African giants as well as their own neighbors in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Zambia, like the Zebras, is in the rebuilding process, but they have never endured a torrid time whenever they took a Botswana assignment.  According to the history of the African football, the two nations have met 17 times, with Zambia winning 1o games. 5 games were played to a draw and Botswana only won twice.  There have been glimpses of excellence in a team that has looked energized, and won the 2012  AFCON finals when nobody expected it. No doubt that Zambia’s revolutionary results are coming to play after winning the COSAFA cup edition at the mercy of the Zebras.

As for Zimbabwe, time is evolving and many had hope that, as one of the most successful sides in Southern African football, the Warriors would now be at the summit of the region, but it seems to them that even in football, there is no easy way to the top. They have played in two consecutive AFCON finals but were embarrassingly knocked out of group stages. All the while, Zebras has to understand that it will take greater leap of faith to down the Zimbabweans who remains the only country to have handed them an embarrassing defeat of 7-0 in 1990.

Botswana is expected to take some pride from Cape Verde of 2010 and Madagascar of 209; they can’t just leave with crossed arms, and so followers think this is going to be a very one-on-one match. Quite a number of South African sides are seen to be organized in doing their things, no wonder their success, both in the region and the continent is merited. And Botswana as an upcoming footballing nation is not far off the mark.

However, in reality, these two South African countries have never proved to be dangerous opponents whenever they faced The Zebras.  Of late, they have been busy luring some of their naturalized players in Europe to come and play for the country of their origin to re awaken their dominance.

However, stories of a disjointed  association and league do point rather wearily to the basic obstacle on Botswana’s own path that for so many years of separation of ownership and club control, with many investors coming to the game and now the Premier League edging Botswana national team’s concerns to the fringes.

They intend on bringing psychology and massive training to the game, but it also seems that, as much as they want to copy the style of other countries, basic skill is still a needed requirement. To date, Zebras loss is based around a diligent, muscular defence and a fast-breaking, penetrative attack by opponents. Coaches from these South African sides now know a 2021 failure will not be accepted when the campaign begins in October. It is safe to forget about Algeria, but for Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana, patience is fast running thin.

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AFCON 2023’s stats of celerity

6th February 2024

The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is renowned for its intense and thrilling matches that captivate millions of football lovers worldwide. So far, football fans have been treated to enormous upsets, eleventh-hour heroics, a plethora of goals, and innumerable twists reminiscent of a Hollywood screenplay deemed too extravagant – the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) appears to encompass everything. The tournament’s standout stars were largely overshadowed by lesser-known figures who appeared intent on perpetuating surprises.

Traditionally, AFCON has been ruled by Africa’s top-tier teams like Egypt, Cameroon, and Senegal, among others. However, this year’s edition has proven to be a conundrum for the continent’s elite nations as they grappled with underdogs in both the group stages and the round of 16.

Furthermore, the 2023 AFCON group stage unfolded as a rollercoaster of emotions, featuring unforeseen upsets, dramatic last-minute heroics, and a deluge of goals that left football aficionados on the edge of their seats.

 

BIG 5 Eliminated

Arguably the most stunning upset of the tournament unfolded when the Brave Warriors of Namibia, ranked 115th globally, triumphed over Tunisia with a solitary goal during the group stages. However, their exultation was short-lived as they suffered a resounding 4-0 defeat at the hands of South Africa, marking the most significant setback of their campaign.

Despite their earlier triumph and a hard-fought 0-0 draw against Mali, Namibia’s journey came to an abrupt end as they were soundly defeated 3-0 by Angola, leading to their exit from the tournament.

Another major exit was that of the Pharaohs of Egypt, who were eliminated by DR Congo in a nail-biting penalty shoot-out (8-7) following a 1-1 draw after extra time. Additionally, former champions Ghana, Algeria, and Tunisia all failed to advance to the round of 16, while Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde, and Angola topped their respective groups.

For the second consecutive tournament, Algeria, a two-time champion, suffered an early exit in the group stages, as minnows Mauritania secured a historic first-ever victory at the finals, securing a spot in the last 16 at their expense. Another powerhouse, Ghana, also fell short of reaching the knockout stage, as the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon rallied from behind to defeat Gambia, dashing the Black Stars’ hopes of qualifying as one of the best third-placed teams with just two points.

6 coaches FIRED!

Six coaches have already been ousted from their positions, as the Black Stars of Ghana swiftly dismissed Chris Hughton following their elimination, sparking a wave of departures. They concluded their campaign in third place with a mere two points.

Tom Saintfiet tendered his resignation as head of The Gambia mere moments after their exit, unable to replicate the success of their AFCON debut two years prior when they reached the quarter-finals.

While it came as less of a surprise, Algeria parted ways with Djamel Belmadi and Jalel Kadri resigned as manager of Tunisia. Additionally, Ivory Coast took swift action after finishing third in Group A.

Jean-Louis Gasset bore the consequences of their defeats against Equatorial Guinea, the most significant losses in his team’s history, transforming eager anticipation into chagrin among the Elephants’ supporters. Strangely, Ivory Coast still managed to qualify after Gasset’s departure.

Meanwhile, the Confederation of African Football imposed an eight-match ban and a $10,000 fine on Tanzania coach Adel Amrouche, leading to his subsequent dismissal by the Tanzania Football Federation.

5 real UPSETS

The Ivory Coast, serving as the host nation, found themselves on the brink of elimination, while unexpected underdogs took center stage, overshadowing even the most celebrated players.

Despite their peculiar decisions both on and off the pitch, the hosts have miraculously secured a place in the quarter-finals after a thrilling 5-4 victory on penalties over the defending champions, Senegal, following a 1-1 draw, further intensifying the tournament’s excitement.

Another major upset unfolded when Bafana Bafana clashed with Morocco, Africa’s top-ranked team, in a quest to secure a spot in the quarter-finals. It seemed improbable for a Southern African Development Community (SADC) nation to stand a chance against a team boasting European-based stars such as Ashraf Hakimi, Youssef En-Nesyri, Azzedline Ounahi, and Nayef Aguerd, among others. However, against all odds, Bafana managed to withstand the pressure posed by the formidable team, securing victory through beautifully executed goals by Evidence Makgopa and Tebogo Mokoena.

Cape Verde also emerged as a surprise contender, with their AFCON campaign featuring a 2-1 victory over the formidable Ghana, a 2-2 draw against Egypt, and a 1-0 win over Mozambique, ensuring their progression to the round of 16. Building on these heroic performances, the Blue Sharks of Cabo Verde defeated Mauritania by a single goal, securing a place in the quarter-finals where they are set to battle Bafana for a spot in the semi-finals.

Adding to the excitement, DR Congo exhibited resilience in their approach against Egypt, forcing the game to penalties which they won 7-8.

105 GOALS…still counting

The 2023 AFCON has not only witnessed the best scoring ratio in over a decade, but it has also set a new record for shot-to-goal conversion rate since 2010, with an impressive 12.3% of the 521 shots taken finding the back of the net in 44 out of 52 matches played.

Moreover, the total number of goals scored has reached 105 with seven matches remaining, surpassing the previous record of 102 set in the 2019 AFCON held in Egypt. Notably, Emillo Nsue of Equatorial Guinea currently leads the scoring charts with five goals, having achieved the first AFCON hat-trick since 2008, marking a significant milestone in the competition.

Nsue’s remarkable performance underscores the high level of talent on display at the 2023 AFCON, which has also boasted the highest goals per game ratio on record (2.7) since 2008. Furthermore, he has etched his name in history as the oldest player to score a hat-trick in an AFCON match, among other individual milestones achieved during the Group Stage.

 

Regrettably, Nsue and his team have been eliminated from the tournament after a crucial missed penalty cost them an advantage, leading to a late winner for Guinea. The question now remains: will anyone be able to surpass Nsue’s impressive goal-scoring feat?

131 YELLOW cards & 9 RED cards

The intensity and excitement of AFCON 2023 has been a delight for football lovers. As the tournament progresses, the number of yellow and red cards issued by referees serves as a testament to the tight competition and adds to the excitement.

After 44 out of 52 matches played, the referees have already issued 131 yellow cards and nine red cards. These statistics indicate the fierce competition and the high stakes involved in each game. The yellow and red cards serve as a reflection of the players’ determination, passion, and sometimes, their frustration. The referees’ strict enforcement of the rules ensures that the matches remain fair and competitive, adding to the overall intensity of the tournament.

The issuance of yellow and red cards also demonstrates the physicality and aggression displayed by the teams. AFCON is known for its robust style of play, where players exhibit their strength and skill to gain an advantage. The referees’ vigilance in penalizing fouls and misconducts ensures that the matches maintain a balance between competitiveness and fair play. This intensity on the field keeps the spectators on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating the outcome of each match.

The Delight of Football Lovers

The tight and intense nature of AFCON 2023 undoubtedly adds to the delight of millions of football lovers who tune in to witness this showpiece event. The passion and dedication exhibited by the players resonate with fans, creating a sense of unity and excitement. The tournament becomes a platform for supporters to rally behind their respective nations, fostering a sense of national pride and camaraderie.

Moreover, the potential for surprises in AFCON 2023 further enhances the delight of football lovers. Nations such as Cape Verde, Mali, Guinea, and Angola, who have never experienced AFCON glory, have the opportunity to make history. The prospect of an underdog nation emerging victorious in the end adds an element of unpredictability and excitement to the tournament. Football enthusiasts revel in witnessing the rise of unexpected heroes and the triumph of the underdogs, making the competition even more captivating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BFL scuffle incites Rakgare

17th January 2024

The leadership scuffle within the Botswana Football League (BFL) has reached a critical point, with the Botswana Football Association (BFA) refusing to meet with Minister of Sports, Tumiso Rakgare, to discuss the ongoing crisis. The BFA argues that government interference would violate FIFA statutes and believes that there are internal structures in place to resolve the matter.

Minister Rakgare expressed his concern over the situation, as he believes that the feud could disrupt national football activities. He wanted to understand the details of the conflict and the mechanisms in place to bring about a resolution. The Ministry of Sports has stated that they will summon the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) to discuss how to proceed in dealing with an affiliate funded by the government that chooses to dictate its relationship with the government.

In the midst of this turmoil, BFL chairman Nicolas Zakhem, who had previously taken the shareholders to court to challenge his removal from the board, has been suspended from football activities by fellow board member Tebogo Sebego. Sebego cited Article 26 of the BFL constitution, which aligns with BFA and FIFA statutes, stating that disputes within football should not be taken to court until all prescribed procedures have been exhausted. Zakhem’s suspension has caused another board member, Jagdish Shah, to resign from the BFL board.

An emergency meeting between the BFA, BFL board, and shareholders was held, but it failed to yield any results. Shareholders threatened to boycott the meeting if Zakhem was allowed to participate, leading to further tensions. As a result, the premier league and first division leagues remain suspended until certain issues are addressed.

BFA WARN CLUBS AS THE IMPASSE CONTINUE

In a letter signed by BFA CEO Mfolo Mfolo, part of the letter reads, “As we approach the upcoming League matches, we are writing to emphasize the critical importance of your attendance and active participation. Attending League matches is not only a responsibility but a fundamental obligation outlined in the statues and regulations of governing football in Botswana.

Mfolo further said the mediation meeting which was held on the 10 January 2024 to facilitate a constructive dialogue among the concerned parties, aiming for an amicable resolution failed to yield the desired success.

“During the mediations, the parties reiterated their right to suspend league activities until their demands are met. This assertion poses significant challenges to the overall governance and operational stability of the league.” Mfolo said.

The BFA chief further said its imperative to note that the threat to suspend the league activities is in violation of several provision outlined in the BFA Constitution and the Memorandum of Agreement between the BFL and BFA.

It remains to be seen as to how the conflict will be resolved. The leadership scuffle within the BFL has escalated to the point where the BFA refused to meet with the Minister of Sports to discuss the crisis.

The BFA argues that government interference would violate FIFA statutes and believes that internal structures are in place to resolve the matter. Meanwhile, the suspension of BFL chairman Zakhem and the resignation of board member Shah have added to the turmoil.

 

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BAA’s Quest for Olympic Medals: A P5 million riddle

17th January 2024

The Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) is gearing up for the highly anticipated Paris Olympics 2024. With a history of producing exceptional athletes, Botswana has seen success in previous Olympic Games, including a silver and bronze medal. However, with only five male runners having qualified thus far and no female athletes making the cut, the BAA is facing financial challenges in their pursuit of two medals. STAFF WRITER TSHEPO KEHIMILE explores the BAA’s need for P5 million in funding, the current state of qualification, and the importance of financial support for athletes’ preparations.

The BAA has estimated that they will need more than P5 million to adequately prepare their athletes for the Paris Olympics. This funding will be directed towards athletes’ training camps and preparations to ensure they are ready for the Games in July. In an interview with this publication, BAA Vice President Administration, Oabona Theetso said they will need a financial assistance from the government. “The money will be directed to athletes’ preparations and training camps to ensure they are ready when the Olympics Games begin in July,” he explained.

The BAA Vice President Administration has emphasized the importance of financial assistance from the government to meet these requirements.

As of now, only five male runners have qualified for the Olympics, while no female athletes have secured their spots. The BAA had set a target of 12 athletes for the main event, raising concerns about whether the current qualifiers will be enough to bring home the targeted two medals. Theetso remains confident that more athletes can still qualify if additional resources are made available.

Looking back at previous Olympic Games, Botswana’s performance has been a mix of successes and missed opportunities. In 2012, Nijel Amos won Botswana’s first Olympic medal, a silver in the 800m event. In 2021, the Men’s 4x400m relay team which comprised of Isaac Makwala, Bayapo Ndori, Zibane Ngozi and Baboloki Thebe secured a bronze medal in Tokyo. However, in previous Games, Botswana failed to bring home any medals despite sending teams of athletes.

The absence of female athletes who have qualified for the Olympics thus far is a significant concern for the BAA. This is the first time since 2004 that no female athletes have made the cut at this point. However, Theetso assures that Botswana has capable female athletes who can reach the Olympics, as it is every athlete’s dream to compete at such a prestigious event.

So far, Letsile Tebogo (100m & 200m), Bayapo Ndori (400m), Leungo Scotch (400m), Busang Collen Kebinatshipi (400m) and Tshepiso Masalela (800m) are the only athletes who have already qualified for the upcoming Olympics which prompts a question of whether these lads will be enough to bring the targeted two medals home.

From the look of things, the Botswana Athletics Association is facing a financial challenge as they strive to secure two medals at the Paris Olympics 2024. With only five male runners having qualified and no female athletes making the cut, the BAA is in need of P5 million in funding to support athletes’ preparations and training camps. While Botswana has seen success in previous Olympic Games, the absence of female qualifiers and the limited number of current qualifiers raise concerns about achieving the desired results. Financial support from the government is crucial to ensure that Botswana’s athletes are adequately prepared to compete at the highest level. With dedication, hard work, and the necessary resources, Botswana’s athletes have the potential to make their mark at the Paris Olympics 2024.

 

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