Zebras coach Peter Butler has vowed to have Ofentse Nato available for the country’s crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Er- itrea in October. The player’s club commitments will clash with Ze- bras’ WC Qualifiers, his contrac- tual obligations give his club first preference but national teams are also entitled to have their play- ers on board for FIFA recognized dates.
Gazette Sport observations have shown that four of Atletico de Kolkata’s Indian Super League games will clash with four of Ze- bras’ qualifying matches (includ- ing two potential games against Mali if Zebras eliminates Eritrea). Botswana’s first World Cup quali- fier will be held on October 5, two days after Atletico’s game against Chennaiyin FC.
The player would have only two days to recover in time for the Zebras game. However, flight fatigue and other factors could jeopardize his readiness for the October 5 game. Zebras’ second leg game against Eritrea will be on October 13, on the same day his club faces
If Botswana qualifies for the second round they will face Mali on November 9, two days after Atletico faces North-East United FC. The return leg against Mali will take place a day before his club’s second round game against Chennaiyin FC.
Players in the ISL are on ‘pay as you play’ deals that require them to participate in at least 90 percent of the regular season games, Nato is rumoured to be on a $60 000 salary for participating in the ISL. Nato’s national team coach, Butler, told this publication that he is determined to have Nato in the squad for the crucial fixtures, he mentioned that the official FIFA dates will work in Zebras’ favour. “I have spoken to Nato’s agent. We will only have him for official FIFA dates,” Butler told this reporter.
Butler underlined Nato’s impor- tance to the team given his role as one of the team’s leaders. Nato has been an integral part of Butler’s side despite their much publicized misunderstanding last year. The midfielder reclaimed his place in the national team and earned the vice captaincy role in the process. He was also Zebras’ joint leading scorer in the 2014 WC Qualifiers with two goals, which he scored against South Africa and the Cen- tral African Republic.
Last month Botswana Football Association president, Tebogo Sebego revealed that the associa- tion’s secretariat will hold talks with Atletico in a bid to avail Nato for Zebras’ games. Butler and the BFA’s decision to engage his agent and his club looks set to avoid a ‘club vs country’ row that prevented Nato from participating in last year’s AFCON Qualifiers.