David Bright’s brief, but turbulent stay at the helm of the national team came to an expected end on Tuesday.
Since that 3-0 defeat in far flung Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso last October, Bright’s future has always hung by a thread.
Knives were long out and when he vented his frustrations on his employer on the eve of the return tie against Burkina Faso in Francistown, the writing on the wall become much clearer.
Even a draw against The Stallions was not sufficient to pacify his employers at Lekidi Centre. The message remained an unaltered ‘Go!’.Bright maintained that the association had failed to lend sufficient support and travelled to Mauritania in November with one foot already out of Lekidi.
A 2-1 defeat did not help matters and with just one point and no win in four Africa Cup of Nations matches, the BFA boot landed on Bright’s back.
Bright was appointed in June 2017 for another stint in charge of the national team, after previous mixed spells. He had risen to national prominence when his Under-23 side went agonisingly close to qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games before landing a coaching job in South Africa.
With his accumulated experience, the new Botswana Football Association (BFA) administration picked him as Peter Butler’s successor.
But it has never been rosy.
After a promising start in which he convincingly won two and drew one in his first three matches at the 2018 COSAFA Cup, it started sliding downhill.
South Africa beat Botswana 3-0 in the plate final at the COSAFA Cup, and since then, the Zebras have known no peace or official victory.
After Butler’s charges lost the first AFCON match 1-0 to Mauritania in Francistown, the entrance of Bright did not alter fortunes.
He travelled to Angola for a must-win match, but returned empty-handed after a 1-0 defeat. Any hopes of resuscitation were quickly quashed by an emphatic 3-0 loss to Burkina Faso in October, before the return leg in Francistown ended 0-0.
A trip to Mauritania in November piled further misery as the Zebras suffered a 2-1 loss, which meant they were left still searching for their first win in the qualifiers. There is one round to play, against Angola next month, but Bright will not be on the dug-out.
The BFA is already preparing for life after Bright, as they indicated an interim coach will be in charge of the Angola game, before a substantive team is installed around June.
BFA asked Bright to take the team to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals, which the association’s chief executive officer, Mfolo Mfolo said was within reach, more so after CAF announced an increase in the number of teams at the finals, from 16 to 24.
Bright was also requested to improve the team’s rankings by 15 places, as part of his deliverables.
There was a feeling that with Mauritania seen as the whipping boys of the group, Angola on a slump, and Burkina Faso beatable, the target was attainable.
Stanley Tshosane had achieved qualification against tougher sides, Tunisia and Togo, while Chad was also in the group.
On improving the rankings, Bright’s predecessors, Tshosane and Butler had managed to move Zebras 15 places or higher.
Tshosane took over when the Zebras were 117 in the world, but moved them to an all-time high of 53 in 2010, a massive jump of 70 places. Tshosane’s successor, Butler came in when the team was ranked 108, but he managed to reach number 86 in 2016 and a year before Bright was appointed the team was number 87.
Bright took charge when the Zebras had slumped to number 121, largely due to inactivity, and they slid to number 150 even before his charges could kick a ball in July 2017.
Last year, the Zebras’ best position was 139, while their worst was 149, meaning Bright had not reached his target of improving the team by 15 places. He leaves the team at number 149, almost 100 places lower than where it was in 2010.
The latest ranking is the lowest since 2001.
Bright has said the team’s poor showing was down to lack of resources. He said the BFA, and not him, failed.
The challenges at BFA had not significantly changed. Tshosane and Butler sang the same song, but the rankings were higher. Bright would feel hard done by the association, but so do other coaches before him.
Bright argues, for the Zebras to return where they are supposed to be, the BFA has to look for a sponsor dedicated to the national team.
Under Tshosane and to an extent Butler, the Orange Botswana and BancABC sponsorship came in handy.
The BFA has changed coaches three times in the last decade, which is not a bad statistic, considering the unforgiving nature of the revolving door.
In fact, there has been some level of stability at the BFA regarding the Zebras technical department, with only Tshosane, Butler and Bright taking charge of the team in the last 10 years.
However, all the coaches have had a word to say about the BFA. While the buck stops with the coach when results are not forthcoming, some of the five fingers will certainly point at BFA.
All the fingers cannot be pointing at the coach, particularly that the BFA has publicly admitted that it is battling financial challenges. Persistent player boycotts over allowances can hardly be an ideal ground for a progressive national team.
Bright said, in an interview yesterday, that the calibre of players was not at the same level as other countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, West and North Africa.
“Some of their players are regulars in Europe and in South Africa,” he said.
Under Tshosane, a number of players were regulars abroad, like Modiri Marumo in Egypt, Diphetogo Selolwane, Mogogi Gabonamong, Phenyo Mongala, Mogakolodi Ngele and Ofentse Nato in South Africa. At the moment, Botswana players are struggling to break into the line-up for their South African sides.