The South African Football Association (SAFA) has launched the inaugural U15 Boys and Girls Nelson Mandela Youth Challenge.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) has launched the inaugural U15 Boys and Girls Nelson Mandela Youth Challenge.

The launch took place at the SAFA’s new centre, Fun Valley, south of Johannesburg on Tuesday, 14 July 2015.

It was attended by, among others, new SAFA Technical Director Neil Tovey, SAFA NEC member Paseka Nkone, participating teams as well as Joe Carrim from the 2010 FIFA World Cup Legacy Trust, which funds the initiative.

Nine provinces – both boys and girls – will tackle each other for the top prize. The tournament will be used as part of the U17 Development Phase.

“Just last week we concluded the SAFA U17 tournament, and today we are starting the with the U15 tournament – this is a clear sign of putting to action what we have been talking about when we refer to Vision 2022. To be among the best in the world we need to invest more at grassroots and that is exactly what we are doing,” said SAFA President Dr Danny Jordaan.

“We are also delighted that our national teams are also very active. Just last week we had the Women’s U20 team playing against Botswana, and congratulations to them on a fine win; the U17 National Team just concluded one of their training camps for the World Cup in Chile in October; the U23 National Team is in camp preparing for a clash against Zimbabwe this weekend and Banyana Banyana will also face Kenya on the same day – both 2016 Rio Olympic qualifiers. The more matches they play the better they become, and quickly get to our Vision 2022 mission.”

The Nelson Mandela Youth Challenge will kick off on Wednesday, 15 July at the Nike Football Training Centre in Pimville, Soweto.

“This is a step in the right direction for the development of football in our country. For far too long we have all complained about the lack of development, but what we don’t realise is that nothing will happen if stand by and watch, we have to get our hands dirty and make it happen. It might take a long time but the results will come,” said Tovey at the launch.

“One of the first mandates I have as the Technical Director is to get you the U15s and all those younger players – regular and structured football. We need to put more focus at the bottom so that the top – Bafana Bafana and Banyana Banyana – can be strong. The top footballing nations around the world use the same strategy. If you look at Spain, England, Germany they all have strong youth teams who play regular football and that helps in producing quality national team players.”

The tournament is an extension of the Annual Mandela Challenge, played by Bafana Bafana against visiting countries, but is now expanded to the Under 13 and 15 boys and girls.

“It was important for us as the Legacy Trust to be involved in this initiative to keep afloat the words of Nelson Mandela of taking care of the children. We all know a nation that does not take care of its little ones will perish – and what better way to launch this event on the birthday month of our late icon. We are confident in the years to come we will enjoy the fruits of this toil that we see today,” said Carrim.

The draw was also conducted at the launch.

In Group A of the boys section Western Cape was drawn against Mpumalanga and Northern Cape. In Group B hosts Gauteng will go toe to toe with Free State and Eastern Cape, while KwaZulu Natal, North West and Limpopo will battle it out in Group C.

For the girls section, Group A has Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West, in Group B there is Free State, Northern Cape and hosts Gauteng while Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal were drawn in Group C.

The opening match in the boys’ category will see Western Cape lock horns with Mpumalanga at 10h30, while Mpumalanga and Limpopo will kick-start the proceedings on the girls’ side.

The semi-finals as well as the third place play-off will take place on Friday, 17 July at Nike Centre.

The finals of both sections are scheduled for Saturday, 18 July at the Dobsonville Stadium – with the girls scheduled to kickoff at 09h00, and the boys to follow an hour later.

The matches will be played as a curtain raiser to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games qualifier between Banyana Banyana and Kenya, which will start at 15h00.

– Full fixtures of the SAFA U15 Boys Nelson Mandela Youth Challenge, funded by the 2010 FIFA World Cup Legacy Trust

– Full fixtures of the SAFA U15 Girls Nelson Mandela Youth Challenge, funded by the 2010 FIFA World Cup Legacy Trust