Da Gama confident of U23 success in Afcon game

2015-11-26 06:00
PHOTO: backpage pix  National U23 coach Owen Da Gama prepares his charges in preparation for Afcon matches in Senegal.

PHOTO: backpage pix National U23 coach Owen Da Gama prepares his charges in preparation for Afcon matches in Senegal.

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NATIONAL U23 coach Owen Da Gama is confident his side can make history by becoming only the second South African men’s national­ football team to qualify for the Olympic Games.

Da Gama on Tuesday held his first training session since announcing his final 21-man squad for the 2015 U23 Africa Cup of Nations last week in Eldorado Park in Johannesburg.

The Bafana Bafana assistant says players and technical staff are looking forward to the U23 Afcon showpiece in Senegal, and is confident they can go all the way and lift the trophy on 12 December.

“History beckons for us, and the players know that as well. They will certainly go down in the history books as, probably, the second team to have qualified – if they do; or when they do,” says Da Gama.

“We are very excited and looking forward to a fantastic tournament.”

Playing conditions are known to be extremely harsh in West Africa, while the living conditions, extremely high temperatures and hostility from the home supporters could also be a detrimental factor.”

However, Da Gama says the tough conditions are something the technical team and players have been preparing themselves for in previous camps, and assures they will be able to handle whatever is thrown their way.

“In our last camp, the theme was about mental strength – we’ve prepared them for the worst possible scenario in Senegal.

“The worst beds, worst food, worst transport, worst conditions – the heat, humidity and the entire climate – we’ve prepared them for that.

“They also got a taste of that when we went to the Rufaro Stadium in Harare [and beat Zimbabwe 3-0], where they [fans] were banging on doors and lifting our bus. The boys have proven that intimidation does not work,” he adds.

The 54-year-old coach, who also played professionally as a striker before retiring in 1991, also believes – from his personal experience as a player – that those who come from difficult backgrounds will have no problem in dealing with the conditions.

“Another thing about these boys is that they are streetwise. A lot of them come from difficult backgrounds, so they understand these things.

“Myself included, I’ve played on dirt grounds and in the heat in Limpopo, so we tend to understand these things.

“All of it has been eliminated, and now it’s all about football; to go there, play and compete and do our best.”


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