Botswana coach Gaoletlhoo Nkutlusang has named her provisional squad for the coming COSAFA Women’s Championship that will be held in South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Bay from November 3-14.
The team has been inactive for eight months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but skipper Bonang Otlhagile says this should however not be an excuse for failure. “We must bring results, just as we did last year when we reached semi-finals for the very first time. This has now put us under pressure.”
There are new faces in the team – Masego Joshua and Thapelo Moshe come in from UB Kicks, defender Game Motlogelwa from Gaborone United, as well as striker Taboka Mathanga (B River Giants).
Ten of the players in the provisional squad are from the Under-20 side that featured in the World Cup qualifiers against Namibia, where they won their tie 9-0 on aggregate. In what is seen as reviving the striking department, crowd favourite Bame Ngenda has received her overdue call-up. Along with 19-year-old maestro Segakolodi Didukanyane, who also receives her maiden call, fans have been longing to see the pair in action.
The team have already reported for full training ad have been through the COVID-19 testing protocols. The Mares will know their pool stage opponents next Thursday when the draw is made for the first round.
The fact that there are now 10 teams competing this year means there will be a change in format, with three pools instead of the two that were initially planned. Group A will have four teams, while Group B and C will have three each. The top side in each pool will advance to the semifinals, along with the best-placed runner-up.
Aside from Botswana, the field is also made up of Angola, Comoros Islands, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, hosts South Africa, East African guest nation Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Botswana will be seeking to build on their maiden appearance in the knockout stages of the COSAFA Women’s Championship last year. They made it through to the last four but lost 4-0 to eventual runners-up Zambia. They went through the pool stages unbeaten though, defeating Namibia (1-0) and Mauritius (3-0), before playing to a 0-0 draw with Zambia.
They also lost the bronze-medal match, going down 3-0 to Zimbabwe. But it is a vast improvement on past showings. The Lady Zebras did in fact now win a match in their opening three visits to the finals in 2002, 2008 and 2011. They broke that duck in 2017 with a 3-0 success over Lesotho.
They also managed draw against eventual champions South Africa, but it was not enough to advance from their pool as they finished second.
In 2018 they opened with a 2-0 win over Malawi, lost 1-0 to South Africa and drew 0-0 with Madagascar to finish runners-up in their pool. Their very first match in the regional showpiece competition in 2002 ended in a 14-0 loss to South Africa.
That opening defeat was in fact the very first fixture of the national team, who are now celebrating 16 years of playing at international level.
The country has not yet qualified for a major championship, having entered the preliminaries for the last three FIFA Women’s World Cup finals, and for the African Women’s Championship since 2008.
Botswana provisional squad:
Goalkeepers: Sedilame Bosija (Bloemfontein Celtic), Gloria Moeng (Geronah), Tlamelo Pheresi (Prisons), Doris Motshegwe (Wonder Girls)
Defenders: Veronicah Mogotsi (Double Action), Bonang Otlhagile (Double Action), Masego Montsho (BDF), Masego Joshua (UB KICKS), Kesegofetse Mochawe (Prisons), Lone Gaofetoge (Geronah), Annah Sechane (Township Rollers), Thapelo Moshe (UB Kicks), Game Motlogelwa (Gaborone United), Lone Gaofetoge (Geronah), Theo George (Wonder Girls)
Midfielders: Atlang Busang (Prisons), Balotlhanyi Johannes (Double Action), Lesego Radiakanyo (Double Action), Golebaone Selebatso (Prisons), Masego Nfandiso (Geronah), Segakolodi Didukanyane (Mexican Girls), Leungo Senwelo (Double Action), Bonno Mokopanele (Security Systems), Ontlametse Gaonyadiwe (Double Action).
Strikers: Refilwe Tlholakele (Township Rollers), Nondi Mahlasela (Prisons), Bame Ngenda (BDF), Esalenna Galekhutle (Mexican Girls), Michelle Abueng (Yasa FC), Taboka Mathanga (B River Giants)
By Gaone Pearl Kerileng