On the day the national team celebrated their historic victory, the stars of the future kicked off in the Orange Youth Cup, the country’s most prestigious under-12 tournament.
With the final due to be played yesterday at the new Lobatse Stadium, the youngsters will have been inspired by the exploits of their seniors, as twelve teams from all corners of the country battled for the cup.
Since its inception as the Voice Youth Cup in 2002, the tournament has produced an impressive list of players who have gone on to make their mark at the highest level.
The most celebrated of all is Township Rollers, National Under-23 and Zebras goalie Kabelo Dambe.
Dambe’s extra ordinary talent was first noticed by the Botswana Football talents scouts at the inaugural competition in Francistown, where he was crowned player and best goalkeeper of the tournament.
Amongst those who marvelled at Dambe’s potential were the then BFA Technical Director Six Keatlholetswe, and Zebras the former mentor Jelusic Veselin.
At the time the 11-year-old young lad expressed his wish to play for one of the local big teams, wear national colours and make it big abroad. He seems to be on the right track as he now plays for Township Rollers and has made the national team.
Last season the 21-year-old made his mark, landing three individual awards as his beloved Rollers clinched the double. As Rollers won the league and the Coca Cola Cup, Dambe won the league’s Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season awards. He was also the Coca Cola Cup’s best goalie.
Youth coaches also see the Orange Youth Cup as an important part of the local football development programme, and would love to see more tournaments encompassing all youth age groups.
One of them Tebogo Mokute who is head coach at first division side Mahalapye Hotspurs, and won the Orange Youth Cup with the Mahalapye under-12 development team, had this to say. “We have a lot of untapped talent and we should thank the organisers of such tournaments in encouraging that potential. It gives young players a chance to play and have their talent noticed.
“Players such as Dambe are an example of what can become of talent when discovered early and nurtured. I urge other business houses to join in and help take our football to the next level by sponsoring other age groups. We also need youth leagues to help us develop better players for the future.”