Amajimbos coach embraces COSAFA stakes
Posted: 4 June 2018 Time: 08:30
South Africa U-17 coach Molefi Ntseki is focusing on the positives regarding the significant change in format to the COSAFA U-17 Championships.
The tournament, which will run from July 19 to 29 in Mauritius, will now be used as a qualifier for the eight-team U-17 African Nations Cup.
Amajimbos have been drawn in Group B with defending champions Zambia and neighbours Lesotho and Mozambique.
Group A comprises Mauritius, Botswana, Namibia and the Seychelles, while Group C consists of Angola, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
The three group winners and best-placed runner-up will proceed to the semi-finals.
Only the winners of the regional showpiece will earn a spot at the Nations Cup, taking place in Tanzania from May 12 to 26 in 2019.
The top four finishers at the continental event will represent Africa at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, taking place in Peru from September 17 to October 8 in 2019.
"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," Ntseki said.
"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 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."
He added: "COSAFA has done very well to come up with this tournament for the U-17s, 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."