Zebras’ score no April Fool joke

2011-04-02 18:46

The only thing that is not eligible to be this year’s April fool is the heroes’ welcome for the ­senior Botswana national football team, the Zebras.

Zebras’ diehard supporter, Baopedi ‘‘City’’ Motona cycled a distance of 40km to welcome the players at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport and back to where the public celebrations were held, at the Notwane Grounds, near the National Stadium.

Clad in full football fanatic ­regalia of the national colours, black, white and blue, with his biycle decked out in the same colours and All Kasi sneakers to complete the look, Motona braved the scorching Botswana heat to declare his undying love for the national team.

He was not the only one – others were ferried by buses as he cycled beside them.

For decades the Zebras have been stripped of their stripes and called belittling names such as the whipping boys of Africa, but by beating Chad 1-0 away in N’Djamena, all that was consigned to the past as they became the first country to book a spot in the 2012 African Nations Cup final to be staged in Equatorial Guinea/Gabon.

This achievement led to Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Shaw Kgathi, announcing that the Zebras’ players will receive Pula 20 000 while members of the technical team will be rewarded with Pula 10 000 each.

The team will also be hosted by President Lieutenant-General Ian Khama at the State House on Friday.

Kgathi added that government would fund preparatory games leading to the 2012 Afcon, including the remaining qualifying games against Malawi and Togo.

Local coach Stanley Tshosane, who spearheaded the feat, paid tribute to the two foreign coaches he previously worked with: Jelusic “Vasco” Veselin and Colwyn Rowe for laying the foundation.

“They did a great job in building the team,” he said.

Botswana Football Association and Confederation of African Football (Caf) education officer Phillimon Makhwengwe said: “Our main weapon has been ­development that has seen a seamless graduation of players from junior teams to the ­Zebras.”

Examples are former Under-23 goalkeepers Noah Maphosa and Kabelo Dambe who are now understudies to the trusted number one Modiri “Carlos” Marumo.

Mkhwengwe said experienced players also played a major role.

Zebras Supporters Club chairperson Zico Koontse said they were already researching travel and accommodation costs in Guinea/Gabon.

“Botswana is a small country and as we are currently in the limelight we should use it to our advantage.

“If we miss this moment unfortunately we will never reverse it,” he said excitedly.

He added that the existing ­euphoria was an opportunity for the supporters’ club to increase its numbers and supporters’ branches of which there are currently 21. Local casual wear company All Kasi, who came on board as technical sponsors in 2008 replacing Puma, are expected to make a killing.

The Zebras’ next qualifying match is against Malawi in ­Gaborone on June 3.

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