Botswana to refresh Under-20 side at COSAFA Championships

The Botswana Football Association (BFA) are using the COSAFA Women’s Under-20 Championships to build a team to compete in continental competitions in the future, with many players being elevated from their Under-17 set-up.

The regional showpiece event will be staged in Nelson Mandela Bay from August 1-11 and is the first time COSAFA have hosted their own women’s Under-20 competition.   It is the start of a new cycle for Botswana side, with the side being led by Tapaphiwa Gaebolae, who has worked extensively with the Under-17 group in the past.

That will provide good continuity and ensure a smooth elevation for the side up a level as they seek to hone their talent for a place in the senior team in the not too distant future.    “We are now building for the future and in order to have a progressive plan, we ought to start the building process as early as this year,” BFA spokesman Tumo Mpatane told reporters.

Botswana have been drawn in a tough Group B at the competition and open their campaign against East African guest nation Tanzania on August 2 at the Gelvandale Stadium.   They then meet Zambia two days later in what could be the crunch game for them, before closing out their pool play against Eswatini on August 6.

Botswana have been regular participants at women’s Under-20 level and were finalists at the 2018 AUSC Region 5 Games in Gaborone, where they lost 1-0 in the decider to South Africa.   It was still a fine campaign for the side and shows their potential as they seek to lift the inaugural COSAFA championship.

They also won silver at the 2014 Games, which featured only four sides and was played in a round-robin format but did not appear two years later in Luanda.     Botswana have entered each of the last six qualification tournaments for the African Under-20 Cup of Nations for Women but have not managed to make significant progress.

They have endured first round exits to Ghana (4-10 on aggregate), Namibia (on pens after 3-3 draw), South Africa (2-7 in 2012 and 2014; 1-9 in 2015), and a walkover loss to Kenya in 2018.

A lot of effort has been made to improve women’s football in the country and this tournament gives them a chance to showcase their rise.