The World Cup isn't yet over and already we have had some qualification matches for CAN 2012, The African Cup of Nations, to be held in two years time, in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Botswana, who have never qualified either for the FIFA World Cup or the CAF Africa Cup of Nations. www.cafonline.com, www.bfa.co.bw.
The Zebras are sponsored by ORANGE, the cell phone network, are on a roll. They won 1-0 in Tunisia a week ago and were hoping to keep on top og Group K when they took on Chad Friday afternoon. The visitors, with TSCHAD on their jerseys, are pretty weak and ranked 143rd in the FIFA rankings.
Due to the fact that the splendid National Stadium in Gabarone has been closed for two years, it was the much smaller University of Botswana stadium, 200 metres away, that was the venue. The lack of suitable lighting meant that the match took place at 3.00pm on a Friday afternoon. The government requested that employees only let supporters who had bought tickets to be given time off.
Well, this is Africa and nobody buys in advance. At 2.15pm I was inside with about 300 fans, By kick-off time the stadium was full, about 4,500, all supporting The Zebras. It's a pleasant setting with 7 small covered stands at one side and both ends, and a vaste open one opposite. Chad, known as Sao, were in all royal blue while the hosts wore all black with some thin light blue trim on the jerseys and shorts.
The referee team was from Mauritius with a tall bald referee and his two tiny assistants, about 5 ft high with spindly legs. Some fans were dressed up in the royal and light blue national colours but there were NO souvenirs jerseys, scarves, hats on sale anywhere, although many did wear the blue stripped normal home uniforms, and a few in long dresses in team colours. No programme so I had to listen to Chilly Boy of station Yarona FM for the line-ups. Heon the track surrounding the pitch with his microphone and did well with the players names but came up short with the officials. " How do you pronounce the referee he ask me?". He was Seechurn RAJINDRAPARSAD. "JUST CALL HIM CHARLIE", I suggested !!
There are 11 groups of four teams, with the top two teams advancing to the finals, alongside the host countries. CHAD, TUNISIA, BOTSWANA, MALAWI in Group K.
Other results recently include Egypt 3 v Cameroon 1; Cameroon 3 v Zambia 2; Cote D'ivoire 2 v Algeria 3; Angola 0 v Ghana 1; Angola 4 v Mali 4; Chad 2 v Malawi 2.
At half-time I chatted with half a dozen German fans, disappointed that they had not reached the World Cup final. One of them, JENS HILGERT from near Koln, but a Bayern Munchen fan, had ridden his motor bike to South Africa. His route from Germany included Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa, and he had watched a local match in each country, and now finally in Gaborone, though his bike was going back by air freight.
The first half was rather quiet but in the 50th minute we got the only goal of the match, right in front of me. I was sitting to the side of the goal on the grass,10 metres away, and I thought that the scorer midfielder PHENYO MONBALA, might run over me, as his team mates chased him behind the goal to hug him. Phenyo plays in the PSL for the Orlando Pirates.
The crowd was in good form and The Zebras kept attacking. neither team are world Cup quality, but gave their all and it was an entertaining match. No more goals, but two offside, disallowed ones, within a minute of each other. First for Botswana and then for Chad. their coach Sherif El-Khashab went bonkers and was almost carded. Stanley Tshosane the home team coach was more restrained.
Finally it was all over and The Zebras are on top of the group. They are away to Malawi on August 11th while Chad host Tunisia in Ndjamena the same day.We all left the stadium and I walked back to my boarding house elated. The fans jogged down the university road chanting and singing. A happy day for a happy nation.