Pragmatic Butler not shocked with Zebras progress

Butler PIC: TSELE TSEBETSAME
Butler PIC: TSELE TSEBETSAME

The result in Mali tonight will be inconsequential. Peter Butler needed a result to convince doubters and fence sitters that he has the pedigree to drive the Zebras forward. He provided an assured answer on Saturday, observes Staff Writer, MQONDISI DUBE

“I am a pragmatist and won’t get carried away,” is Peter Butler’s instant reaction when asked about a-perception-changing victory over Mali.

Since he arrived in Botswana nearly two years ago, Butler had some times faced hostile criticism after sharply going against the grain. The established norm, though not entirely cast in stone, is that national team coaches pick the best players on current form. In fact it is an expectation that had become so deeply ingrained that when Butler swam against the tide, conformists erroneously raised their red flags.

Butler traversed the length and breadth of the country in search of raw but promising talent, and in the process dismantling the notion that the national team is a preserve of the big Gaborone clubs.


Names previously unheard of in the national team set-up such as Lebogang Ditsile, Onkabetse Mankgantai, Joseph Joseph, Gogontle Marumo, Omaatla Kebatho suddenly became prominent. Butler would be captured seated on a camp chair among the crowd at a First Division game as he cast his net wider and deeper. Some fans were unconvinced as results frustrated Butler’s project. They argued Butler was better suited as a development coach in one of the junior teams.

The Botswana Football Association (BFA) president, Tebogo Sebego remained adamant in the face of growing criticism that Butler would see out his three-year contract.

Gradually his project mellowed, showing initial promise, which was on display when the team decimated a haphazard South Sudan in Butler’s first match in charge.

Despite the Zebras’ gallant performances, results continued to drive away fans. But a change of venue seemed to be the refreshing prescription the doctor had ordered as the team is now unbeaten in three outings at the Francistown Sports Complex.

Burkina Faso came with a strong pedigree, having finished as runners-up in the Africa Cup of Nations finals in 2013.

They were humbled 1-0. Sorry Eritrea was dismissed 3-1. But Butler’s biggest victory, which would probably shift opinion, came against Mali on Saturday. The Zebras had fallen short against the West Africans on three occasions, but this time Mali found a galvanised side.

While the kaleidoscopic pieces of his project are shaping up finely, Butler refuses to be carried away. He reckons there are more sparkling moments ahead after the record 26,662 crowd was served delicious football on Saturday.

“I am very happy we beat Mali for the first time.

However, I am a pragmatist and won’t get carried away. I will stay humble and we approach the game in a way where it’s 0-0. We have to focus and be mentally strong because they are a very strong, physical team,” Butler said. He said he has a long-term view and is delighted with the way his project is progressing.

“It makes me more happier to see the smiling faces and the crowds flocking to see us in Francistown than any other personal satisfaction.

I am not surprised at our progress; I know the young players are coming through now. I love the fact that other coaches don’t pick players and I see potential and give them an opportunity at senior level and they flourish,” Butler said. The coach would be particularly delighted with the progress of lanky Gilport Lions holding midfielder, Lebogang Ditsile, who is getting better with each outing.

His astounding progress would encourage Butler to blood in more youngsters as he lays a solid foundation and creates sufficient depth.

Butler, who has emphasised that he is least bothered by criticism, has not hesitated to shuffle his cards.

In the last three games, he has gone for a midfield packed 3-5-2 formation, which stifles the opposition.

His biggest weapon has arguably been the form of Ofentse Nato and Ditsile who protect the defence well, which has dried opportunities for the opposition.

While Butler is critically aware that he is as good as his last match, he would be delighted with the positive changes he has brought to the team.

But he knows how fickle football fans are and two defeats on the trot might bring initial questions ringing again. However, after the gratifying three results on the trot, Butler has bought himself sufficient breathing space.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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