Zebras back in action after six month lay-off
By Bakang Mhaladi
GABORONE – Botswana’s national soccer team, the Zebras, will finally get to kick a ball, six months after their last match, when they take on Tanzania in a friendly match on March 25.
The Zebras have been inactive since a low-key Independence Day match against an understrength Angolan team on September 30, 2016.
Coach Peter Butler says they will travel to Dar es Salaam where they take on the Taifa Stars, as they finally shake off six-month-old cobwebs.
Butler has been itching for action, which has been hard to come by due to the Botswana Football Association (BFA)’s shallow pockets.
The association is P10 million in the red and has been forced to shuffle priorities, and with the Zebras not in any competitive engagement, found themselves on the sidelines.
Butler has told The Southern Times that he had identified three strong Under-20 players from the north-west region of the country, who are expected to blend with their more established counterparts for the March 25 friendly.
“I have brought three youngsters into the squad and they are all 19 (years of age),” Butler said.
Meanwhile, the Zebras have slipped to a lowly 116 place on the latest FIFA rankings due to their inactivity over the last six months. Butler’s charges slid one place last month, and are now 37th on the continent after reaching position 16 three years ago.
Butler is still battling to have his contract, which expires on March 31, renewed. However, sources have told The Southern Times, that BFA president, Maclean Letshwiti, is on the verge of concluding a new deal with the former West Ham United midfielder.
Butler, on a P100,000 per month salary, was seen as expensive for the cash-strapped association but Botswana President, Ian Khama, who is also BFA patron, reportedly asked that the Briton be given an extension.
The coach’s salary gobbles around 16 percent of the BFA grant from the government, although Butler is on record saying he is “cheap” for a national team coach. On average, national team coaches on the continent earn around US$10,000.