GABORONE, BOTSWANA — Chances are only one women national team from Africa stands a chance to automatically qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games with runners-up having to battle for survival with second placed teams from the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL).
The 2020 CAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament is the 5th edition of the CAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament – the quadrennial international football competition organized by the Confederation of African football (CAF) to determine which women’s national teams from Africa qualify for the Olympics.
This criterion has so far put the local women’s national team dubbed Mares in the 3rd round of the 5th stage qualifications stages.
Favorites such as Ghana, Nigeria knows that one slip in these unpredictable qualifications could see them relegated just like their arch-rivals Banyana Banyana of South Africa.
However, against the run of play, all eyes are on Botswana’s Mares who surprised many football pundits by eliminating the latter favorites. Questions then remain if they can become the giant killers to qualify for the coveted games having already eliminated the favorites in the neighboring Banyana Banyana of South Africa.
They started the first round by walloping other neighbors, Namibia as they set a difficult date with Banyana Banyana. However, they are now trailing with a one nil defeat at the hands of Copper Queens of Zambia. Nevertheless that has not stopped former Amajita’s 2000 Sydney Olympiad and captain of the U-23 Matthew Booth to praise the local ladies.
Speaking to Botswana Unplugged after his weekend in Gaborone where he was undergoing assessment of his UNISA module that concentrated on Botswana politics, Booth narrated that Botswana women team’s trailing could be an added advantage as any behind team psychologically goes into the game fully laden with the mentality to score whilst the latter wants to defend their lead from the first leg results.
“The mares should remember what they did to Banyana Banyana and surely it is possible to reverse the results. To become an Olympiad is not very often, but it’s a special occasion, and they must go out and play with determination and ferocity. To have an Olympian tag on your resume is greater than any financial reward or any other cup a player may ever want.”
Quizzed about his observance on Botswana women team’s rise, Booth said women football globally and in the continent is getting stronger. This is despite no professional leagues in many countries.
“I feel that at grass roots level a young girl should be given the same opportunity as young boys and once that happens, the ladies’ game will start to improve. We have seen the enormous change in South Africa with the success of Banyana Banyana with a lot of emphasis put on ladies’ game and likewise in Botswana I certainly hope they are giving it the necessary attention it deserves. I think it’s the market that administrations that run football have over looked and that has to change,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Botswana Football Association (BFA) mouthpiece, Tumo Mpatane said the association has already put a strategic plan for the women football and hence the positive results that the women national team has received recently. Among other efforts by the FA was taking the Mares to Slovakia on a two-week long camp a month ago.
“We have performed well in tourneys like COSAFA with underage players in instances of U/20s and U/17S, this was in preparation to develop a team that can carry on and have a conveyor belt succession plan in our women’s team from development to the national teams respectively. Inherently so, we will grow the women’s leagues and we are happy that regions are working cordially with the FA to grow the women’s football.”
When quizzed about the second leg fixture between Mares and Copper Queens, Mpatane said they are confident that they will reverse all results and qualify for the fourth round of the qualifiers. The second leg will take place on October 8th in Francistown.