Mmegi Online :: Booze, women and wet passport: Zebras kick back to life
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Monday 17 December 2018, 16:18 pm.
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Booze, women and wet passport: Zebras kick back to life

A nation that was increasingly growing weary of a faltering national soccer team was jolted back from indifference this week. Women, booze, allowances and a wet passport colluded to jump start interest on the Zebras, writes MQONDISI DUBE
By Mqondisi Dube Fri 12 Oct 2018, 12:21 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Booze, women and wet passport: Zebras kick back to life








Rapidly disappearing out of the public radar, the Zebras kicked firmly back into the spotlight this week. But it took a bitter concoction to get the nation talking about a team that once held fans spellbound with dizzying football and giant slaying acts.  It has become the norm that a Zebras side can quietly fly-out to play a critical encounter, without a single person waving the blue, black and white flag.

This is in sharp contrast to the days when the whole country would be thrown into undiluted frenzy, as the boys went into a war of attrition with the continent’s big boys, and emerged unscathed. The joy that the Zebras brought blew into every corridor, with some artists jumping into the recording studio to pay glowing tribute.

Supporters clubs sprouted all over the country, as a nation rallied behind a solid and sparkling brand. It was not long before the Zebras qualified for their first ever Africa Cup of Nations finals in 2012, just reward for their unrelenting persistence.  There was a brief lull after the 2012 euphoria, until the opening of the new Francistown Sports Complex in 2015, reignited interest.

The Zebras rediscovered their mojo and became a formidable force once again, slaying giants, Mali and Burkina Faso in quick succession.

Record attendances were recorded in the process. The Mali game drew 26,262 fans, a record for a local soccer match. But when the Zebras failed to qualify for the AFCON finals, fans voted with their feet and stayed at home. That frenzy has not been recreated again, and the Zebras’ preparations and trips have become a cacophony of silence. Despite a good run at the 2018 COSAFA

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Cup, where the Zebras topped their group, which had Angola and Malawi, there has never been sufficient noise on the terraces, bar the odd enquiry about the result.

When the Zebras prepared to face Angola last month, the team silently slid out of the country, with no pre-match euphoria. And their return was just as ice cold. The team has become accustomed to the muted departure and arrivals.  But an unexpected concoction, brewed to perfection, and with sufficient content, has jolted the nation back into life. First it was Jwaneng Galaxy midfielder, Lebogang Ditsele who managed to defy chemistry, mixing the proverbial oil and water after hotel CCTV footage captured him enjoying the forbidden company of booze and “female compatriots” while in camp.

The incident got the nation talking, as the player was axed from the team.

While fans were still digesting the booze and women incident, Ditsele’s compatriots struck the second blow.

The players refused to train on Monday over unpaid allowances, and the Botswana Football Association had to convene a meeting to resolve the crisis. Before the team flew out, destined for the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou, there was still sufficient space for one more headline grabbing incident.

Key striker, Onkabetse Makgantai accidentally spilt water on his passport, resulting in the player remaining behind, as the wet document could not be processed at the airport. The incidents have got a nation talking, whetting enough appetite ahead of tomorrow night’s clash. Amid all the frenzy, coach, David Bright might escape immediate scrutiny as the prominent incidents, and not the tactics, could be the focal point in the event of a loss.

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