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Monday, March 28, 2011


Not only will a large percentage of the local population have been dancing on Gaborone's streets this past evening, but many more will doubtless come tumbling out of cupboards around the country during the course of this coming week after Botswana's national side, known as the Zebras, confirmed their qualification for next year's Africa Cup of Nations with a 1:0 win away to Chad.

Jerome Ramatlhakwane earned his place in Botswanan football history by scoring the 50th minute winner, and his fifth in the Zebras' qualification camapign in total, at N'Djamena's Stade Nationale. Botswana, managed by Stanley Tshosane, have not been prolific goalscorers in their group, netting just seven goals in their six games so far (the other two coming from Oteng Mongala and Joel Mogorosi), though they remain unbeaten and have won five games so far.

Their total of 16 points includes surprisingly defeating Tunisia twice (by 1:0 home and away) and the double against Chad, alongside defeating Togo in Gaborone and drawing away against Malawi. There are those who may put Tunisia's defeats down to the current turbulent political situation in the country, but seeing as the Zebras won in Tunis last July, that argument surely holds no ground. The fact that both Tunisia and Togo competed in the 2006 World Cup and have been regularly competing in the most recent editions of the African Cup of Nations only serves to make the Botswanan national side's achievement that more impressive.

The Zebras are sitting pretty with 16 points at the top of Group K, an unassailable seven points clear of their nearest challengers Malawi with only two games to go, at home to Malawi in June with the final group game away to Togo in September. Malawi currently sit second in the group, and it may well go down to the wire between themselves and Tunisia (currently on 7 points) with Togo and Chad now seemingly all but elliminated.

It will be their first appearance at a major tournament, having previously been eliminated in either the preliminary round or group stages of all previous World Cup and African Cup of Nations tournaments in which they have taken part since their first attempt in 1994. They declined to participate in the qualifying stages for the 1998 World Cup.

The 2012 African Cup of Nations will be co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, with the tournament's opening match taking place in the Equatorial Guinean coastal city of Bata on 21/1/12.

Most of the national squad play in domestic football, apart from goalkeeper Modiri Marumo,defender Mogogi Gabonamong, Ramathlhakwane, and Botswana's most popular player and current top-scorer in the Botswanan national side, Dioketogo ("Dipsy") Selolwane, who all play in South Africa.

The top local side is Township Rollers, who celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, with 10 domestic titles to their name, and who seem a good bet to duplicate last season's championship-winning perfomance this time round as well. Gaborone's finest are currently nine points clear of second-placed Mochudi Centre Chiefs in the BeMobile Premier League, with Francistown outfit ECCO City Greens a further five points adrift in third.

Botswana's club sides have not impressed in African club competitions down the years, with only the Rollers progressing past the preliminary round, and that on one occcasion. Nevertheless, it will be an experience and a half for the Zebras, and congratulations to them, too. It is something of which the country's entire population of two million people should be proud of, regardless of how far they progress. The Zebras now have ten months in which to prepare for the African Cup of Nations, and their friendly in Marrakech against Morocco this coming Thursday will be first of many tests to come, but the coming time is something for Botswana's inhabitants to enjoy, cherish and look forward to.

1 comment:

  1. hey pat i like ya blog didnt remember that botswana had football league gee i learn something new in the world gregor vh