Under-23 raring to go

Pio Paul’s talented Under-23 team has stepped up preparations ahead of a tough campaign to book a place at the CAF Championship finals.

The finals will be hosted by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in December. The qualifiers begin in April with a first round date against East African opponents, Kenya.

The young side’s preparations moved into top gear over the weekend with friendly matches against top Premier League sides Township Rollers, Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Extension Gunners.

A Zebras side dominated by Under-23s leaves on Monday for a friendly match against AFCON- bound Burkina Faso in Potchestroom on Tuesday. Kick-off is 5:00 pm.

Zebras coach, Peter Butler and his assistant, Paul would look to give the youngsters much of the run against the Burkinabe who will field a full strength squad.

The West Africans are preparing for the AFCON finals, which start on Saturday.

Paul told Monitor Sport they would give it their best shot as they ramp up preparations ahead of their first match against Kenya in April. “I can’t complain although we are missing key players from sides like Gaborone United, Rollers and BDF XI.

“Several players already have experience at senior level and we look to use them for the CHAN (African Nations Championship) and the COSAFA Senior Challenge,” Paul said after watching his side against Gunners at Lekidi Centre on Saturday. He said fans should be patient as they build a team that will form the nucleus of the Zebras in a couple of years.

The Under-23 side has talented and tested players in Mosha Gaolaolwe, Karabo Phiri both from GU, BDF XI winger, Kabelo Seakanyeng, Nico United forward, Onkabetse Makgantai, Unobatsha Mbaiwa and Mpho Kgaswane.

Most players have been bloodied into the senior team system and this is expected to pay dividends.

For Tuesday’s friendly, Butler has called Mogogi Gabonamong, Joel Mogorosi, Kabelo Dambe, Topo Piet, Lemponye Tshireletso and Boitumelo Mafoko to bring in experience.

Paul wants to see the Under-23 team qualify for the finals, but the road ahead is challenging.  If they get past Kenya, the side will play regional powerhouse, Zambia before another tough opponent, Ivory Coast in the third round.

Editor's Comment
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