Breathing room for much maligned Butler

Peter Butler
Peter Butler

As Joel Mogorosi wrong footed the Burkina Faso goalkeeper to net the winner, the cold early evening peace was further shattered by thousands of sharp, jubilant screams. Deep below the jubilant rows stood a relieved man. Peter Butler had emerged as the day’s biggest winner, argues Staff Writer, MQONDISI DUBE

After a promising but barren run, the Zebras finally put the puzzle pieces right with a thoroughly deserved 1-0 victory over Burkina Faso last Saturday.

The tenacity, drive and zeal had been restored. It was a refreshing upgrade from the languid displays, which had driven away the fans. One man, coach Peter Butler was thrust into cloud nine as he had partly cleared the monkey off his back.

The Englishman’s detractors had not wasted time in demanding his head, arguing he was on a quick path to nowhere.

But the Botswana Football Association (BFA) president, Tebogo Sebego built a protective wall around the coach who is moving into his second year in charge.

Butler had grown unpopular for chopping and changing his squad particularly his undiminished faith on untested players at Zebras level.

Despite the swelling negative perceptions, Butler continued to have faith in youngsters, some unheard of before they donned the Zebras shirt. It has been a radical change, a swift departure from relying on the old and experienced guard.

Butler has not hesitated to make drastic, wholesome changes including leaving out players like Jerome Ramatlhakwana.

Most of his critics felt overlooking experience would be his downfall. However, he has managed to find a fine blend of youth and experience and there were assuring glimpses of the future at the new Francistown stadium. Midfielder Lebogang Ditsile played with aplomb while Kabelo Seakanyeng was galvanised out on the wing.

Ofentse Nato, Joel Mogorosi and ageless Boitumelo Mafoko provided the perfect balance to a team full of vim and adventure.

The 3-5-2 formation was on display for the first time since Butler took charge. It suffocated a Burkina Faso team with the bulk of the members who reached the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations final.

The coach threw caution to the wind with the full knowledge that only a win would keep the Zebras in contention.

With the rising noises at the new stadium, the Zebras paid back with a win to cherish for a long time. Butler was the ultimate winner and convinced a considerable number of Doubting Thomases about the future of his young project.

He believes it is a project that might even start bearing fruit long after his departure. But he is not prepared to compromise for short-term benefits. He says his eyes are cast into the future and the evidence is found in his young team.

“The future is very bright for the Zebras irrespective if I am here or not. I have worked hard to develop a new group of players. It’s not about me but the young players being given a chance.

Ignore the negativity and jealousy; it goes with the territory and I am used to it. You will never win as a coach as your selection will always be wrong,” he says. As Butler awaits Comoros in October, he knows Burkina Faso has provided him with abundant breathing space and would wish to expand it further with another fan-winning victory.

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