JOHANNESBURG – South Africa's Under-17 football team won’t make the 2019 Youth Championships in Tanzania, after they succumbed to a 1-0 loss at the hands of Angola in the Cosafa Cup Final in Mauritius on Sunday.
But the South Africans are determined to soldier on, especially after an impressive campaign where they drew scoreless against Lesotho, and beat Mozambique 4-1 and Zambia 2-1 in the group stages.
They followed this up with a 2-0 victory over Mauritius in the semi-finals.
Coach Molefi Ntseki says inexperience took a toll on his players.
“I think at this age group we are struggling in terms of our mental and physical endurance,” Ntseki said. “The boys did well despite the early mistakes that saw us conceding in the fourth minute of the final. We can always expect such mistakes from a 15-16 year-old because they are not full-time professional players.”
Amajimbos might have not booked themselves a ticket to Tanzania, but boy, they’ve been a source of admiration in the past few years, especially after qualifying for the 2015 Fifa U17 World Cup in Chile.... where they were beaten by Russia, North Korea and Costa Rica.
The most important aspect is that they continue to be a breeding ground for both Amajita (U20) and Amaglug-glug (U23).
Goalkeeper Khulekani Kubheka - who’s now Amajita’s skipper - is one of the generation which hailed from Amajimbos.
Ntseki oozes confidence that his young players have a bright future ahead.
“Our players tried very hard and did their best but unfortunately it was not meant to be,” he said. “By the way this is the third unlucky as a country. I think since I’ve started at Safa as Amajimbos’ coach, we’ve been doing very well.
“70% of the boys that went to the 2015 World Cup are now playing for the Under-20 national team. 20% of our boys played a very important role against Malawi (Amajita’s last match of their 2019 Afcon qualification).’’
Players such as Mothlalosi Junior Nare are surely destined for greatness in the future if they continue to put in the work, while staying humble and focused. Nare was the match-winner for Amajimbos in a couple of match during the competition.
Safa president Danny Jordaan and former Bafana Bafana striker Philemon Masinga have also called for young blood in the senior national teams, with Jordaan stating: “We said to Stuart Baxter (Bafana coach), whatever the age of your players, you must add four years to 2022 - when the World Cup will be hosted in Qatar. Essentially, we are giving him the message he must start the next generation of Bafana players.”
Masinga agreed: “We should start using these younger players who are qualifying for the World Cups. They should be given a chance - starting from club level. I’d rather lose more games with younger players who I think they can give me 12 more years of their career.”@Mihlalibaleka