The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has saved the Botswana Football Association (BFA) from a potentially embarrassing moment for local football.
The army has agreed to transport the national team for their two-legged tie against Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou on October 13 and a home leg at Francistown Sports Complex on the 16th.
The Zebras need a good result against the Burkinabes to get back in contention in Group I, which also comprises of Mauritania and Angola.
The local lads currently sit bottom of the group, pointless and goalless after their opening two matches.
A defeat against a Burkina Faso ranked 56 in the world – 86 places higher than the Zebras – could effectively mark the end of their journey in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
However, the BFA, in their efforts to give the national a fighting chance by availing all that is necessary, got off to a shaky start as the association allegedly struggled to secure a chartered flight to Ouagadougou.
An official from the cash-strapped association told Voice Sport that they needed at least P1.6 million to charter a flight to the West African nation.
“Using commercial flights was totally out because we have to be back in Francistown on the same day or early on the 14th to prepare for the 16th fixture,” he explained.
The concerned official said while their opponents had already secured a chartered flight a long time ago, BFA was only assured of the availability of the BDF jet earlier this week.
“It would have been an embarrassment for Botswana if we had not secured a chartered flight. This would have meant Burkina Faso were going to jet in to Francistown leaving us behind to hitchhike from African airports!
“Remember taking the commercial flights meant were only going to arrive in Francistown on the 15th, just a few hours before kick-off,” he exclaimed, gratefully adding, “BDF is a lifesaver.”
However, the BFA Public Relations Officer, Tumo Mpatane insisted the team’s chartered flight was never in doubt.
Mpatane dismissed the notion that the association was desperate, adding they always had the option of using commercial flights.
“Remember last month, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Thapelo Olopeng made a commitment that come what may, the Zebras will be assisted with resources to help them in the quest to qualify for the 2019 Cameroon finals,” maintained Mpatane.
The BFA mouthpiece revealed that the team will leave on the 10th of October for an eight-hour flight aboard a BDF jet.
“Immediately after our match the team is flying straight to Francistown and I believe they land early on the 14th. It’s a nine-hour flight and I’m confident we’ll arrive before Burkina Faso,” he said.
The 32nd Total Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon will for the first time feature 24 teams – opposed to the traditional 16.
Another slight tweak sees the continental showpiece being played in June instead of January.
Zebras last qualified for AFCON in 2012 under Stanley Tshosane and have failed to replicate, or indeed even come close to replicating, that performance since.
Could the BDF’s intervention be the catalyst the Zebra’s need to launch another high-flying AFCON bid – the country’s long-suffering football fans will certainly be hoping so!