Amajita, Amajimbos ready for CAF draw

2014-12-21 15:00

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National youth coaches Thabo Senong and Molefi Ntseki are unfazed by the prospect of tough draws for South Africa when the matchups for next year’s Under-17 and Under-20 African Youth Championships are drawn today.

The draws will be held today at the Confederation of ­African Football (CAF) headquarters in Cairo, Egypt.

South Africa has qualified for both championships, which are dominated by west African nations, with Zambia the only other southern representative in the mix (see box for qualified teams and dates).

The semifinalists during the two ­championships will represent the continent at next year’s Fifa Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups in Chile and New Zealand, ­respectively.

Ntseki, the Under-17 (Amajimbos) coach, will be in charge for the first time in a major tournament, having served as an assistant youth coach between 2009 and 2012.

“We should start believing in ourselves more and also consider ourselves as the team to beat at the championships, irrespective of who we get in our group. We are all new and this is a first-time experience for all of us. The only thing is to work on our confidence to overcome stage fright.”

A 22-man Amajimbos squad reported at the training camp on Tuesday. The camp ends today in Joburg. They will regroup in the first week of the new year, and Ntseki will announce the final squad.

Ntseki said their goal at the championships will be a place in the semifinals, which will automatically earn South Africa a place in the World Cup.

South Africa’s best run in the Under-17 continental championships was a fourth place finish in the 2005 edition. The team ­narrowly missed out on the World Cup spot as Africa was only allocated three slots at the time.

Meanwhile, Under-20 (Amajita) assistant coach Senong said it was time to end west Africa’s dominance at the youth ­championships.

“That we are among the eight teams that have qualified for the championships means we are one of the best. When we prepared the team with coach Shakes [Mashaba], our primary ambition was to make the top four at the Senegal tournament. The secondary goal is to be African champions.”

Senong, who is also Mashaba’s deputy at Bafana, said qualifying regularly for youth continental championships will benefit the senior national team in the long run.

“Our wish is to see our youngsters compete at major continental tournaments and qualify for the World Cup.

“This is where they can be identified by European clubs, which would benefit Bafana in the long run as we’ll have more players to source in Europe,” he said.

Senong is likely to take over as Amajita coach since Mashaba graduated to Bafana Bafana in July.

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