Despite the 4-1 drubbing at the hands of their Kenyan counterparts this past weekend, I have the utmost confidence in the National Under23 team, that it will develop into a force to reckon with. Despite the loss, the team moved through to the next round where they will face Zambia.
That is a commendable feat for the Pio Paul led side. Despite the hammering, the team has great potential and can get us favourable results in the future. The team just needs to be nurtured and all done to ensure that it stays and develops together.
In the past, we have seen teams that showed great potential dismantled and talent lost through the cracks. One team that immediately comes to mind is the Under 17 team that went to the Africa Junior Championships just last year under the tutelage of one Kaizer Kobedi . Not much has been done to ensure continuity of the side and I’m afraid we might lose some of the talent in that side. If it were up to me, most of that team would be the current Under 20 team and would meet regularly, even when there are no games, to ensure that they continue to work together and grow together as teammates. That would ensure that the team is forever ready when called upon. Obviously there would be minor changes in the team, with some ins and outs, but on the whole the backbone of the team would be established.
After every unsuccessful or disastrous qualifying campaign, we always do the proverbial ‘let’s go back to the drawing board’. In this instance, the drawing board is quite simple; whatever happens let’s keep the team together. Even if this team does not qualify for the Finals, which I hope they will do, we will have to keep the side together and ensure that it grows together. It is the future senior national team. I must commend the technical team for picking this team for some friendly matches and the upcoming COSAFA Cup.
However stubborn and not one to shy away from putting his appoint across; Keitumetse ‘Pio’ Paul is for me the right man to lead this team and should be kept at the helm. He is a born winner and wants to win at all costs. He has always had a love-hate relationship with some in the BFA but he has done himself a great favour by getting results when it matters. He is a go-getter and is persistent. He has not qualified for any major tournament, but he is certainly on the right track. He has surrounded himself with a team that he feels will work with hi m rather than against him in Mlungisi Kopi and Desmond Molefhe, and the BFA needs to support him.
Before the Kenya encounters, as is always the case, the coach made overtures of lack of sufficient preparation. This is a persistent challenge that should not be used as an excuse anymore. Rather the coaches should be able to improvise when they don’t get the much needed friendly matches. As much as we can call for support from the BFA, national team coaches should make the best of out the worst situations that they encounter from time to time.
Ideally, the senior national team coach should be overlooking all the junior teams and working with the junior national teams’ coaches to ensure progression through the ranks. That would also ensure smooth transition from one level to the other. Most successful countries practice that and it is one thing that we seem not to take up. There is often a gap between the different levels. Off late I however see some progress as the Senior National team coach closely works with the Under 23 coach, who is also his assistant at senior level. That is a step in the right direction.
The National Under 23 team is the immediate level below the senior national team and all should be done to ensure that it is a good breeding ground that avails a pool for the National team coach to pick from. With the current U23 team, there is hope for the future. Consisting of the likes of Goitseone Phoko, Omatla Kebatho, Mpho Kgaswane, Tapiwa Gadibolae, Onkabetse Makgantai, Mosha Gaolaolwe, Kabelo Seakanyeng and Thatayaone Ramatlapeng, the team is very talented and with proper nurturing and guidance, it can go a long way. As I say; we could be onto something big here, provided we play our cards right.