Amajimbos vow upset at Niger championship

2015-02-01 15:00

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The South African Under-17 team – the Amajimbos – will set up a training camp in Port Elizabeth this week ahead of the African Youth Championship, which will kick off in Niger in a fortnight.

Tomorrow, coach Molefi Ntseki will reveal the final 21-man squad who will represent the country at the biennial competition, which runs from February 15 to March 8.

Three tournaments have been held since South Africa’s last qualification – in 2007.

Ntseki believes his charges can upset the apple cart at the eight-nation tournament, where they have been drawn alongside Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Cameroon in Group B (see box).

Zambia, Nigeria and Guinea join hosts Niger in the other group.

“The difference between us and the countries in our group is they are regulars at Under-17 tournaments,” said Ntseki.

“If we focus too much on profiling our opponents, we’ll end up being scared – we must believe in ourselves and this approach worked for us against Egypt [during the qualifiers], when few people gave us a chance of qualifying. We must have the belief that we can qualify for the World Cup too.”

South Africa beat Tanzania 4-0 on aggregate and knocked out powerhouse Egypt (4-3 on aggregate) in the third round. Semifinalists at the Niger tournament will automatically qualify for the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in Chile, which will be played from October 17 to November 8.

Amajimbos narrowly missed out on World Cup qualification when they finished fourth at the 2005 continental championships in Gambia.

At the time, Africa was allocated only three slots at the World Cup.

Safa chief executive Dennis Mumble said: “Key objectives for 2015 are to qualify for the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups and also for the Under-23s to qualify for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

“If we can achieve those objectives, the future for Bafana Bafana is even brighter, because 2017 and 2018 are key for us. Bafana is a work in progress and we need to prepare the junior teams now for that future.”

Mumble said Safa did not spare a cent in preparing the junior teams before qualifying for their respective youth championships.

“We are still not at the point of getting financial support from corporate South Africa because it takes a lot of money to hold preparation camps for these teams,” he said, without divulging figures.

“If we have to go into a deficit, it’s because we spend money in the areas where it is needed. For instance, [Amajita] spending two weeks in Russia did not come cheap. The hosts picked up expenses that side.”

Amajimbos will depart for Niger – via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – on Friday.

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