Mpote faces daunting Zebras task

  • The Zebras fixture with Eritrea next month will be a case of bad meeting worse and a fortuitous scale deciding whether an impecunious side with only an interim coach is more deserving of victory than the world’s lowliest football team by official ranking

Gazette Reporter 

The Botswana Football Association (BFA) has laid to rest speculation over who will be on the bench when the Zebras face Eritrea in a crucial Africa Cup of Nations preliminary round tie next month.

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The naming of the Orapa United coach, Mogomotsi ‘Teenage’ Mpote, as the man to take charge of the team against what is one of Africa’s football lightweights last Thursday put paid to the anxiety that has gripped fans of the men’s national football team for some time.

“The BFA wishes to inform members of the media and public that it has appointed Mr Mogomotsi Mpote as head coach of the men’s senior national team,” it said in a statement. “Mpote comes into the role on an interim basis for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations preliminary games against Eritrea.”

But Mpote faces a gargantuan task of pulling the Zebras out of the abyss of their dismal 148th position in world rankings, and sit only nine places above Africa’s lowest position.

As a result of the low rankings, Botswana was forced to take part in the qualifiers involving the continent’s bottom football heap.

Next month, they face Eritrea in a match with a significant meaning as failure to clear the first hurdle would mean Botswana’s interest in the 2023 AFCON qualifiers is over before the contest proper gets underway.

Botswana is part of 11 other bottom placed teams to determine the six teams that will join 42 sides for the group stage draw.

With the BFA facing financial uncertainty, it has opted for an interim arrangement where Mpote will take temporary charge of the national football team.

He was expected to address a press conference at BFA headquarters in Gaborone yesterday (Tuesday) where he was to name his assistant, with Pontsho Moloi the favourite for his first job with the national team.

Mpote’s previous reign had some measure of success when he took the Zebras to the final of the 2019 COSAFA Cup where they side narrowly lost 1-0 to Zambia.

He was immediately replaced by Belgian, Adel Amrouche whose time with the Zebras was remarkable for poor showing, registering only one victory in seven matches and accordingly finishing bottom of their AFCON qualifiers group where they were pitted against then champions Algeria and neighbours Zambia and Zimbabwe in the five group-stage matches.

Mpote will relish the opportunity to sit on the Zebras bench and prove to the appointing authorities that he deserves the job on a full time basis and should therefore end the hunt for a substantive coach that has been lackadaisical because of the BFA is penurious.

The BFA is P8.8 million poorer, which is likely to affect the Zebras’ preparations for the Eritrea game. The Zebras have been inactive since their group stage exit at the COSAFA Cup last year July.

Mpote and acting chief executive officer, Tshepo Mphukuthi were expected to address the media on the team’s preparations. The coach and Mphukuthi, who is the BFA technical director, were expected to allay fears over concerns Mpote will not be allowed to sit on the bench as he does not possess an A coaching licence.

While things are not rosy in the Zebras camp, the team is expected to sail through to the group stages, with Eritrea the world’s weakest football team at number 202. The preliminary round matches will be played between March 21 and 29.