JOHANNESBURG – Michael Morton, a squad member of Amajita’s class of 2009 at the Africa Youth Championships (AYC), reckons that the current crop of players have the ability to achieve the same feat that they did, and the potential to go a step further.
Ten years ago, Morton and company finished fourth in the Under-20 Afcon tournament, and subsequently went on to be household names locally and internationally.
Thulani Hlatshwayo owns the greater share of the success as he currently captains Banyana, while players such as Thulani Serero, Kamohelo Mokotjo and Kermit Erasmus have set the scene alight in European divisions.
Locally, the likes of Morton, George Maluleka and Ramahlwe Mphahlele are profoundly idolised.
Moreover, this group of players remains the only class that propelled Amajita to their highest finish in the World Cup – the last-16 spot in Egypt.
“There’s too much quality that came out of that group. And what’s even more appeasing for us was the fact that we were the first generation since Benni’s (McCarthy, in 1997) to qualify for the tournament,” Morton said, in explaining that they were living testimonies of the importance of football development.
Amajita will clash with Senegal tonight in the semi-final of the AYC at Stade Seyni General Kountche in Niamey, Niger at 8.30pm SA time.
With their World Cup spot already intact after finishing runners-up in group A to Nigeria, Amajita’s mandate is to progress to the last two of the tournament – something that’s only been achieved by the class of 1997 in the country’s historical records.
“There’s a lot of talent in the current squad. Obviously qualifying for the World Cup was one of the aims, but now that they’ve got to the semi-final, why not go all the way?” he asked.
“Obviously the more success we get in Africa, the more European countries start to look at South Africa as a breeding group for talent.”
Amajita coach Thabo Senong and midfielder Luke Le Roux at today's pre-match press conference ahead of their Wednesday's #TOTALAFCONU20 semi-final clash against Senegal. Kick-off is at 20h30 (SA time). @CAF_Online @BurgerKingZA pic.twitter.com/NTSXuEVpy0— SAFA.net (@SAFA_net) February 12, 2019
Morton might be a South African by birth, but he’ll be mostly rooting for AmaZulu teammate Sibusiso Mabiliso to make the club and country proud when they go in search for a place in the final tonight.
Mabiliso has been an integral figure for coach Thabo Senong’s team, having managed to lead by example defensively.
“I think it’s fantastic that players get this far in the tournament because it puts them in the shop window,” Morton said.@Mihlalibaleka