A former major in Botswana’s Defence Force was this week named senior national coach of the Zebras — and he has wasted no time in talking up a war against Bafana Bafana.
“We are playing South Africa and they are our enemy! We need to mobilise people to come and support the Zebras in Francistown [for tomorrow’s match],” the newly appointed David Bright, a former Santos coach, told a presser in Gabarone.
“We’ve been given five days to prepare. At this level, you cannot moan and demand more days. Admittedly, three weeks would have been sufficient, but international football affords you very little time to prepare.
“Therefore, I need soldiers to hit the ground running,” Bright said. “I can assure you that we are going to compete. It has been a very long time since the Zebras defeated South Africa, but my boys are ready.”
Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter, meanwhile, has been fighting a whole other war.
“It would be a war of attrition,” Baxter said of his struggle to get clubs to release players for international duty. “You want to call up players but clubs are refusing to release. I would have done the same had I been a club coach. It is difficult to let go of your players at this time of the year because they have preparations and you cannot blame them for pulling back their players.”
Baxter has assembled a relatively inexperienced side anchored by Lehlogonolo Masalesa, Cole Alexander and 19-year-old Teboho Mokoena, who many believe should have been given the Young Player of the Year title at the Premier Soccer League awards ceremony on Monday.
But it is the addition of Black Leopards creative force Siphelele Ntshangase and the Bucs’ hardworking Riyaad Norodien that seemed to give the team a chance against Botswana the last time around.
This time, Botswana is talking a tough game.
MacLean Letshwiti, president of the Botswana Football Association, believes the major’s appointment marks the beginning of a new era.
“We are here to start the process of rebuilding our national asset. When we parted ways with [former coach] Peter Butler, we did an introspection and looked at the kind of coach Botswana needed to take the national team forward,” Letshwiti said.
“We needed a man with experience, the right attitude and qualifications, who had achieved a lot. None came closer than Major Bright. We needed a man who could understand the local game and the Botswana culture and traditions. He fitted that bill.”
Besides giving Bright the task of “beating” South Africa, Letshwiti mandated the major to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament in Cameroon, as well as the 2021 edition in Côte d’Ivoire, and to qualify for the 2022 Fifa World Cup finals in Qatar.
“We need to remember how we qualified for Afcon in 2012. We must always collectively get behind the ball and attack from defensive positions … We are going to attack as a team and not in divisions. That would be the Botswana way of playing.”