On Wednesday it was confirmed the Mares will be part of the 12th edition of the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) from July 2 to 23 in Morocco.
This will be the Mares’ first dance at the biggest women’s competition in Africa. The AWCON finals are the gateway to the World Cup as the top four teams will make to the finals while a further two will be involved in an inter-continental play-off.
This means six out of the 12 teams that will play in the AWCON finals, could find themselves on the plane to next year’s World Cup to be co-hosted by New-Zealand and Australia. If the Mares finish among the top six teams in Morocco, then they stand a chance to grab a ticket to the World Cup. Well, that will be some feat considering where women’s football was pegged not too long ago (or it still is). Amid the team’s qualification, all and sundry have congregated around the team. Remember this is a team whose nickname has been a subject of constant ridicule. They have never been everyone’s darling but all of sudden, from all corners, friends are emerging.
It is a normal occurrence that when days are bright friends are plenty and the opposite, when days are dark, friends are few, rings true. The Mares are seeing new friends from all walks of life and while that is a welcome development, the critical test will be the durability of this friendship. Let the team perform poorly at the finals, you will see the fair weather friends drop like flies.
Only the all-weather friends will stick with the team through thick and thin. Some have arrived to salvage whatever mileage can result from any form of association with the Mares. All this will be done under the guise of supporting the team. Thus far, it has been heartening that companies like Lucara and the government have seen it fit to reward the players and officials with cash.
The hope is that more (cash) incentives will roll in as the team prepares for the finals.
The sincerity of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) will undergo stern examination in the coming months and beyond the tournament. The association simply has to walk the talk of properly and deliberately developing women’s football.
The Mares qualified under testing conditions, often without a proper budget and no international friendly matches to prepare for the qualifiers. They had to hop around the city to play practice matches. BFA loves the Mares, but imagine their money from FIFA was diverted to other operations, all in the name of love. In a family set-up, there is a child who is always the favourite, at times even if they do not deliver the goods.
The Mares have never been the association’s darling, with their male counterparts enjoying endless pampering. It comes as no surprise that the BFA will wake up at night and take the snack meant for this child called the Mares and distribute it to other children. Hopefully, the Mares’ flight to Morocco will restore some semblance of order and ensure the team is treated with dignity, not like Lazarus feeding from the rich man’s crumbs.