Give a thought for Botswana players

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FRANCEVILLE — Franceville is Gabon’s second largest city. It was discovered by a French explorer called Pierre de Brazza sometime in 1872 and boasts some of the most wonderful historical sites in the world.

Locals have taken advantage of the rainy season all year round and rich soils to plant coffee, sugar cane and cocoa in large quantities while mangoes, bananas, avocados and paw-paws grow wild across the countryside.

The country also boasts mineral resources like manganese while crude oil has contributed to the country being classified among the wealthiest in Africa.

Thanks largely to football, I have been able to learn a little more about my continent. In fact, I now know a lot more about Africa, something that could have taken my geography teachers a lifetime to teach me about Mother Africa, her children, her challenges, traditions and culture and what generally makes Africa tick.

Now the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) is upon us and as part of the SuperSport crew covering the event, we find ourselves criss-crossing the southern region of Gabon where teams in Group D are based.

Zambia got the tournament to an explosive start. Equatorial Guinea also caused a major upset by defeating Libya and in the process won themselves $1 million that had been offered by the son of their State president.

Then Angola shaded Burkina Faso 2-1 and Lord, it seems like we are headed for a magic carpet ride!
There is an argument raging around here though.

Equatorial Guinea’s offer of $1 million to their squad to win their opening match against Libya as well as Botswana’s failure in their request for a $13 000 appearance fee for each player, has literally let the cat among pigeons. There are those who claim Botswana players must put the honour of their country first and forget about money.

Well, that may be the case and I respect people’s opinions, but I also have strong opinions against the view Botswana players should look to their national flag as motivation and not allow money issues to cloud their judgment and affect their patriotism.

It is this thinking that has led to Caf believing nations are happy to receive a token prize for participating in the Afcon. But if you consider just to bring all your Europe-based players and to hold camp three weeks prior to the start of the tournament costs an arm and leg, people would change their minds.

Barcelona earned $70 million for winning the European Champions League in 2011. Afcon winners take home $1,2 million, in this age and time of professionalism and commercialism.

Are we downgrading Africa’s premier national tournament to an extent the winner should be content with such a pittance?

Has it occurred to African football followers why many top African players miss the Afcon and cite pressure from their own European clubs or fake injuries so they could miss the tournament? And if they come, how many of them apply themselves diligently?

I think the Botswana Football Association has terribly let down their own players by failing to raise the kind of sponsorship that would have enabled them to offer the Zebras incentives for putting their country on the world map by qualifying for this tournament.