2 June 2018– Head coach of the South African U17 Men’s National Team (Amajimbos), Molefi Ntseki is positive about his side’s chances after the draw of the COSAFA U17 Championship was conducted in Polokwane.
Ntseki, who attended the event, is in the city as he is the assistant coach at Bafana Bafana who will kick-start their 2018 COSAFA Cup campaign in the quarterfinal against Madagascar.
The clash will be played on Sunday, 3 June at the New Peter Mokaba Stadium, starting at 15h00.
Amajimbos have been drawn in Group B against the defending champions and regional rivals Zambia, as well as Lesotho and Mozambique.
The 12-team tournament will be hosted by Mauritius and runs from 19 – 29 July.
This is the third time in a row it is held in the Island.
The host nation is in Group A alongside Botswana, Namibia and the Seychelles. Mauritius finished as runners-up in the previous edition of the competition.
In Group C Angola will face Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
The three group winners and best-placed runner-up will proceed to the semi-finals.
The COSAFA U17 Championship will now be used as a qualifier for the eight-team African U-17 Nations Cup, which will take place in Tanzania from 12 – 26 May 2019 – only the winners will qualify.
In Tanzania, the top four countries will represent the continent at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru (17 September-8 October 2019).
SAFA Media sat down with Molefi Ntseki to gather his thoughts on the draw and the new format
SAFA Media: Coach Ntseki your thoughts on the COSAFA U17 Championship?
Molefi Ntseki: COSAFA has done very well to come up with this tournament for the U17s, it is actually the first phase of competition for the 15 year olds. In the past we had moments where you could only play in the African Youth Championship and you had players who were not experienced enough for international and continent football, so I think for COSAFA to come up with this competition is actually helping our boys because they will be able to play international matches – about four or five before they go to the AYC – so this is a good competition for our young boys.
SM: Looking at the draw, what are our chances?
MN: You are talking about 14 COSAFA countries and you have only 12 participating. It is very interesting because you have to win your matches, you have to win your group, you have to win the semi-final, you have to win the final to qualify for the AYC in Tanzania – so you can’t say a particular country is a threat or weaker opponent, we will give respect to every country that will be taking part because I think in doing so will help us to do well in our matches and in our group. If ever we can go all the way and win the final, we would have played five matches and five matches would have given our boys five caps of international football and experience, and going to the 8-Nation AYC in Tanzania, we will have played enough to withstand the pressures of international football.
SM: With only the winner going to Tanzania, does that not put pressure on teams and countries?
MN: For CAF and COSAFA to come up with this format, there are more positives than negatives, but let us dwell on the positives – which are that you don’t have to travel the whole of the continent to play a match, for instance if you are from the southern part and you have a match in the north of the continent was a bit expensive for us, at the same time COSAFA is assured we will have a team in the AYC in Tanzania, unlike before when we used to play against the northern or West African countries and more often than not we failed to qualify for AYC, and as a result we could not qualify for the World Cup. In 2014 we played Tanzania and Egypt and qualified for the AYC, so you that tells you that had we not beaten Egypt we would not be at the World Cup in Chile in 2015, so this format allows a COSAFA team to represent this region at the AYC and if the team does well there, we will definitely have a team at the world cup. It also gives us coaches a chance to prepare the team with the understanding that we are talking about a COSAFA country, and if we have a strong, well-prepared team, that will also be a lesson to all the teams that will be participating in the tournament.
SM: So preparation is going to be key?
MN: Absolutely, preparation will be very important because you are talking about 16-year olds, and they are not in camp as we speak, they are at school. Towards the start of camp, just closer to the tournament they will be preparing for their exams which means training will be limited – once or twice a week, or no training at all because we must also remember that it is also important to the parents to have their kids preparing for examinations. We are talking about kids that are 15 or 16 years old, they are in their first phase of high school education, and that will be a bit of a challenge. So if we can have enough time when the school closes and we prepare well, then we will be able to go to COSAFA with a clear understanding that it is not going to be easy – we will need a high level of mental strength, a high level of tactical endurance and discipline because if we don’t we will not do well in this tournament. But with what we have with the technical team and everyone involved – the coaches from the clubs and the academies we are very positive that we will do very well in the tournament.
FULL DRAW OF COSAFA U17 CHAMPIONSHIP:
Group A: Mauritius (A1), Botswana (A2), Namibia (A3), Seychelles (A4)
Group B: Zambia (B1), Mozambique (B2), Lesotho (B3), South Africa (B4)
Group C: Angola (C1), Malawi (C2), Swaziland (C3), Zimbabwe (C4)