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Mares gain independence

Mares gain independence

DRESSED TO IMPRESS: The Mares will take on Namibia

Ladies 1 Men 0 as girl power takes centre stage in historic clash

Traditionally, the Zebras have been at the forefront when it comes to playing in the celebratory Independence Day football match.

However, the winds of change which famously breezed through the country 56 years ago will once again sweep into Botswana on 30 September as, for the first time in history the ladies national team take centre stage on the big day.

As just reward for the recent heroics, including reaching the WAFCON quarter-finals in their maiden appearance at the continental competition earlier this year, Gaoletlhoo Nkutlwisang’s Mares take on western neighbours Namibia at the National Stadium.

Mares gain independence

CONFIDENT: Nkutlwisang

Speaking to Voice Sport, Botswana Football Association (BFA) Head of Marketing, Commercial and Communications, Carol Kgafela stressed the women had earned their magical moment in the limelight.

She explained they specifically picked Namibia as their opponents for the special fixture in order to further bolster relations between the two nations as their BONA bid to co-host the men’s 2027 AFCON tournament gathers momentum.

“The Mares have been doing really well, but most of their games were out of the country so this was a way of affording Batswana an opportunity to watch them play on home soil. Also, it was done for women appreciation following the general interest in The Mares, it made sense. Women were central to the Independence of the country in 1966, and they are becoming more and more important today and for the future of the country,” was Kgafela’s passionate logic.

The BFA boss added this was just the beginning, promising the Mares Independence engagement would not be a one-off.

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Optimistic of a good turnout, Kgafela said, “As this is a part of the Independence Day celebrations, we are working together with Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture development (MYSC) and the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) to create hype about the game. We are hoping that Batswana will come out in large numbers to celebrate Boipuso and support the Mares.”

Sharing similar sentiments, the team’s long serving Coach, Nkutlwisang said it was an honour to be part of this milestone moment for ladies sport.

“It’s important to be part of this celebrations and as women we feel appreciated more so that its history-in-the-making that women will be playing during Independence Day. This is something we will always cherish because this is a game in which we need results and to make Batswana happy. At the end of the day, we want the cup to remain in Botswana,” declared the veteran Maun-born tactician, 42, who has been at the helm for 12 years.

Boasting a decent record against the Brave Gladiators of Namibia, Botswana will be confident of providing the locals with some festive cheer – something their male counterparts have struggled to achieve in recent years.

The last time the two nations met in the capital, back in April 2019, a late goal from star striker, Refilwe Tholakele secured a 1-0 win for Nkutlwisang troops in an Olympic Qualifier. The ladies completed the job in Windhoek a week later, a 2-2 draw enough to ensure their progression to the next round. They would go on to stun South Africa on penalties before Zambia cruelly ended the dream – an Independence Day clash marks a return to dreamland and a massive goal for girl power!

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