UP FOR CHALLENGE: Zebras players

‘THE PAST MEETS THE PRESENT AS ZEBRAS HOST LIBERIA

There will be a familiar face in the dugout this Independence as the Zebras and Liberia square off at the National Stadium in an international friendly.

Just over two years since he left, fan favourite and former national team coach, Peter Butler returns to Botswana in the unaccustomed role of foe.

Now in charge of Liberia, the Briton remains extremely popular with local supporters, having masterminded numerous memorable moments in his three-and-a-half year stint as Zebras boss.

ZEBRAS COACH: Adel Amarouche

On the pitch, Butler got Botswana playing attractive football, blooding youngsters in the process and building for a future he would not get to oversee.

His extensive scouting further endeared him to the country’s passionate football fans, travelling to the remotest parts of Botswana in his endeavours to unearth hidden talent.

However, not one to mince his feelings, the outspoken Englishman regularly fell out with the Botswana Football Association (BFA) hierarchy. He eventually quit in June 2017, unable to agree terms on a new contract.

Despite the acrimonious end, Butler has fond memories of his time in Botswana.

Speaking exclusively to Voice Sport through the week, he said, “I am very happy to come back to Botswana with Liberia. I loved my time in Botswana. The people were amazing and treated me with special affection. I made friends for life and I wish the Zebras all the success in the world, I hope they can climb back up the rankings!”

Fast-forward 27 months and another foreigner sits at the helm.

Recently appointed coach Adel Amarouche has endured a tough start to life with the Zebras, falling at the first hurdle as the country crashed and burnt against the flames of Malawi in their 2022 World Cup qualifier.

It was a point not lost on Butler, who couldn’t resist a dig at his opposite number.

“I’m loving my time in Liberia, the place is a football crazy country! Even though I will not be bringing my WC qualifying group stage team, as they will only regroup on 6th October, I will be bringing a local National Team Group plus a few overseas players to see them and assess them in a competitive International game.”

HOPEFUL: Butler

Following their dismal showing against Malawi, Amarouche publicly declared his displeasure at the off-field conduct of some of his squad.

Talking a leaf out of the Butler training manual, the Belgian has opted for a young side for the Independence Day clash.

He will be hoping for a morale-boosting win as he builds for 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers against Zimbabwe and Algeria in November.

It is a daunting task for a team currently ranked 148 in the world but that’s why the BFA have forked out the big bucks for Amarouche (reportedly P250, 000 a month).

He will be expected to deliver!