Mares, the painkillers

The Mares head coach, Gaolethoo Nkutlwisang
The Mares head coach, Gaolethoo Nkutlwisang

The women’s national team delivered the perfect pain numbing win, when they flew into Harare for a swift heist before an empty National Stadium on Friday.

The Mares proved there was nothing mighty about Zimbabwe’s Warriors as they delivered three deadly blows in a 3-1 win which puts Botswana firmly on course for a first ever Africa Cup of Nations finals berth. In the Sunshine City, the Mighty Warriors were willing partners as the Mares inch closer to concluding a perfect script. Football has been hurting in recent weeks, with the financial crisis at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) triggering unending pain.

There has been a lot of unwanted attention at Lekidi Centre, which saw the BFA chief executive officer, Goabaone Taylor’s short tenure cut short after she was dismissed on Friday, following a disciplinary hearing into the misallocation of FIFA funds. BFA first vice president, Marshlow Motlogelwa had resigned two days earlier as the fall-out from the financial turmoil began to show its ugly head. But Mares popped up at the right time to provide the soothing tablet, which was gladly taken by a relieved football family.

The Mighty Warriors were asked to take three of the tablets, and they obliged as they cleared the Mares route to Morocco, where the AFCON finals take place in July. The Mares are now 90minutes from confirming their place among the continent’s elite, joining the top table for the first time in their history. The Mighty Warriors’ funeral procession now heads to the Obed Itani Chilume Stadium where all burial arrangements are set to be concluded on Wednesday. Not so fast, says Zimbabwe’s coach, Sithethelelwe Sibanda. She thinks the unthinkable can be done in Francistown where local fans will be allowed to cheer the Mares on. Exactly a decade after the Mares’ counterparts, the Zebras qualified for the AFCON finals for the first time, it all points to another Botswana success. The Mares have defied odds; no proper preparations with an association struggling financially and a women’s league battling to get back to its peak. Coach, Gaelethoo ‘Ronaldo’ Nkutlwisang recently said she cannot travel the length and breadth of the country to scout for talent citing lack of resources. The team is therefore, largely a southern (read Gaborone) affair and it’s not by choice.


Across the aisle, the Zebras enjoy relatively better treatment. Their coach earns a six-figure salary while Nkutlwisang has no contract and is just a volunteer. The champagne bottles will remain on ice until late Wednesday when Mares’ success or progress to Morocco is confirmed. No need to guess what the win will spark. The usual late comers lining up to ‘welcome’ the team.

Everyone will want a piece of the team and hog the limelight. When the team is struggling, they stay as far away as possible, but when its dinner time, one by one they arrive at the table, fork and knife in hand ready for an undeserved feast.

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