Since taking charge two years ago, Butler had set about dismantling the old guard and injecting fresh legs, which is beginning to bear fruit. Burkina Faso and Mali were blasted in stunning fashion while Eritrea expectedly posed little threat and got the right treatment from a ruthless Zebras who made the Francistown Sports Complex their new fortress towards the end of last year.
“Our objectives remain the same. We will continue with our project and strive to remain competitive at every level.
We will continue to search for new talent as I feel this is so important to my commitment to the Botswana public and more importantly to the youth of the country,” Butler said when quizzed about the direction of his project in 2016.
He said it was heartening to note that the Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, Thapelo Olopeng and President Ian Khama had publicly declared Francistown as the home venue for the Zebras “as I feel this is a marker in the sand moving forward”.
Butler said Zebras preparations should be concentrated in the north as that is where the passion lies. He called for high profile matches at the end of January or in February to kick-start what should be ‘the Zebras year’.
Butler would continue to blood in largely untested players and said he would follow up his recent talent identification trip to the Botswana Games and also commence an Under-21 programme to underpin the good work which has bore fruit in the last two years.
“The squad moving forward will be more settled as we have a very talented and exciting young group of players, but development will always be at the forefront as Botswana is far behind other countries,” he said.
Asked about targets for the upcoming COSAFA Cup to be held in Namibia in May, Butler said the regional cup was not on his mind.
“I am more concerned with the upcoming games. We have to prepare in a more professional manner and we need games. We need to stay humble and keep the players grounded and focused.
I am into my last year so obviously I would like to take the team to greater heights.”
Against a backdrop of skcepticism, Butler has moulded a young and exciting team that is surprisingly built around previously unknown players such as Lebogang Ditsele.
In the latest rankings released on Thursday, the Zebras rose to 25th in Africa while they moved to 95th in the World. They face Comoros in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in March before crossing to Namibia to play in the COSAFA Cup.