rThe Botswana Women’s National Football Team, the Mares is, currently in Morocco for the Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) championship and according to coach Gaoletlhoo Nkutlwisang they are ready for the tournament that is to run from July 2nd to 23rd.
The Mares will play their first AWCON tournament match on Saturday July 2nd at Prince Moulay Abdellah Sports Complex between hosts Morocco, then Burkina Faso at 21h30 local time (21h30 GMT). They will then take on Burundi on the 4th July 2022 at 2100hrs.
Nkutlwisang told Times Sport that they are currently on their last training camp in Marrakech and working to adapt to the weather, the football grounds and playing against a team that came early for the tournament in preparation for the competition.
She noted that they were to have a friendly match against Uganda over the past weekend, but the game was called off, and ended up playing a Morocco Super League team Najah Sous FC and won 7 nil. They then played their last preparation match on Wednesday in Marrakech before heading to Rabat where the team will be based for the duration of the tournament.
While the coach admits the task ahead is a daunting one, she revealed that their intention is to make a mark at the tournament. She added that the team will use the experience from championships to plan again.
The coach however believes that they have determined, talented and quality players who are fit for the battle and focused on executing their game plans.
She said the players were groomed at a young age to play football at international competitions highlighting that some are currently playing for international teams in countries such as Zambia, South Africa and United States of America (USA).
“The team is doing well in terms of preparations and one thing that is important when you have started the preparations is gauge countries that you are competing against in terms of their strength, weaknesses and the opportunities,”she said.
Reflecting on their AWCON qualification journey, Nkutlwisang said that they had only four games in hand in order for them to qualify for the tournament and did very well to win the first two qualifying games against Angola. The Mares qualified for AWCON after brushing aside COSAFA rivals Angola 7-1 on aggregate in the first round before clinching their maiden qualification on away goal rule after a 3-3 aggregate score against Zimbabwe.
Nkutlwisang stated that after the AWCON tournament she is hopeful that some of her players will be recognised by international teams and add to the numbers of those who are already playing abroad.
“It would be an achievement for me as women’s football team coach to groom more internationally recognised players because it will benefit team Botswana in future,’’ she said.