Amajita coach Thabo Senong remains positive that Absa Premiership clubs will make their players available to him when they are called up to the national Under-20 football team that will compete in the 2019 Africa Youth Championship.
Amajita sealed their spot to Niger with a 2-0 aggregate win against Malawi last Sunday. Next year’s continental showpiece is scheduled to collide with second half of the 2018/2019 PSL season. However, Senong says that a repeat of an incident such as when Bidvest Wits refused to release former striker Phakamani Mahlambi for last year’s Afcon is something that won’t trouble them this time around.
“We’ve sat down with coaches of various clubs, and the relationship has improved,” Senong said. “We need to go back now and give them the progress of our national team, including the dates of the Afcon in Niger from February 24 to March 10. We need to humble ourselves again, try to find a good balance and synergy in terms of getting those players for preparation camps and the tournament itself.”
While Amajita’s performance in the previous continental showpiece was far from good; their fourth place finish did just enough to book them a place in the 2017 Fifa World Cup that was staged in South Korea.
Asked how they’ll ensure a better and more improved 2019 tournament, Senong replied: “When we talk about Niger, we talk about a different ball game. There will be six West African teams, and only one Cosafa nation and one Cecafa nation (Burundi). We are starting from scratch in terms of tournament analysis and opposition research. Amajita will also go to West Africa to play friendlies with these countries and that information will be what will guide and lead us on what kind of approach and tactics to take.”
Senong is happy with keeping a low profile despite his huge success within the development set-ups since starting as an Orlando Pirates youth coach. He went on to serve as assistant coach of the national Under-17 football team – Amajimbos. Now he calls the shots at the helm of Amajita where he’s led the team to three major tournaments. On the other hand, his childhood friend Rhulani Mokwena is holding his own in the top-flight football after a successful stint with Mamelodi Sundowns and is now on course to bring back the glory days at Pirates.