Gaborone — After spending months in preparations and training camps, the National Under 17 hopes to bring home silverware in the upcoming COSAFA Cup scheduled for July 19-29 in Mauritius.
Botswana has been drawn in group A with the hosts Mauritius, Namibia and Seychelles respectively. Two teams who finish on pole position and second will go on to play the cup's semifinal. The team will be keen to qualify for the Under 17 Africa Cup of Nations as the ultimate regional competition winner will represent the COSAFA region in Tanzania next year.
The championship will, in turn, serve as a qualifier for FIFA Under 17 World Cup to be staged in Peru.
The last time the young Zebras appeared at the Under 17 Africa Cup of Nations was back in 2013 but fell short to a disappointing first-round exit as they lost all their three matches.
The team also suffered the same fate in last year's COSAFA Cup after a no-show at the 2016 edition.
Preparations for the tournament began early in April with a stringent selection process extending to all structures of football development all over the country including the newly established youth league and BISA.
The head coach of the team Itumeleng Duiker said he was satisfied with the teams' preparations given the challenges.
"We had a successful preparation even though there were challenges since we are working with students who obviously have schoolwork to attend to explained Duiker," he said.
The coach highlighted that they had to help these players juggle between school work and a series of training camps they had.
"We started with a large number, the training camps has helped us to trim the required number for the competition," said Duiker.
Part of preparations included two friendly games against the Kingdom of eSwatini, both games ended in a one-all draw.
The young Zebras, however, ended their preparations on a low note as they lost 3-2 in a match practice against Lesotho on Tuesday.
Duiker was quick to downplay the results of the match practices claiming that in overall the games helped them to work asses the team well before the competition.
"The friendly matches we had against Lesotho helped us very well to pick on our weaknesses and improve on that as our target is to survive the group stages and go all the way to win the competition," admitted a seemingly confident Duiker.
Appointed captain of the ship defender Larona Modisaemang of Police XI development team pleaded with the nation to rally behind the team throughout the competition.
"I urge Batswana to keep us in their prayers and support us all the way in order to do well," said Modisaemang.
The captain also shared the same sentiments with his gaffer over the preparations for the competitions.
"We had a very good camp which as players we enjoyed and I think all the players are responding well to the technical team's instructions. We can only to go all out and fight for our country," he said.
Goalkeepers: Kgoseitsile Cedrick Ramojela, Karamelo Kgosipula
Defenders:Leruo Ratlala, Tebogo Kopelang, Bruce April, Larona Modisaemang, Thabo Babusi, Gabriel Vanneel, Gift Nthusi
Midfielders: Kaone Kolagano, Oageng Maphorisa, Thabang Sendu, Theo Shadikong, Thabo Modukanele, Goitseone Abel, Thabo Mangole, Arnold Obuseng, Boniface Gagoitseope
Strikers: Katlego Jankie, Kealeboga Bonang, George Saungweme.
Team Officials: Head of Delegation (Phillimon Bunu) Head coach (Itumeleng Duiker) Assistant Coach (Tebogo Mokute) Team Manager (Tebogo Kamati) Medical Officer (Archim Kealotswe).