Mauritius have been chosen as hosts of the COSAFA Under-17 Championship for the second year running, having staged an excellent event 12 months ago that ended with Namibia as surprise winners.
This year’s competition will be played from July 21-30 at two venues – the Saint Francois Xavier in the capital Port Louis, and the Mauritius Football Association Technical Centre.
The Indian Ocean Island has made great strides in its football development in recent years and its selection as hosts for the second year running is testament to the good work done by the Mauritius Football Association.
Football in Mauritius actually has a longer history than many African nations, having first had a formal league all the way back in 1935.
Corporate sponsorship in recent years has elevated the profile of the competition and raised the level, though that has not necessarily translated into national team success.
The country defeated Seychelles to advance to the next round of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers next month, but disappointingly were beaten by Comoros Islands in the preliminary round qualifiers for the African Nations Cup.
The national Under-17 side went out in the first round of the COSAFA Under-17 Championship last year, but were placed in a difficult pool that included eventual champions Namibia and beaten finalists South Africa. They beat Seychelles in their other pool game.
They will be cautiously optimistic of bettering that result this year in a Group A that includes Botswana, Malawi and Madagascar, though all of those teams will present a challenge.
Mauritius senior national team coach Joe Tshupula recently told FIFA.com of the country’s ambitions – which all start at the Under-17 level with the development of players for the senior team.
“I hope in future to [also] organise a competition for the Under-23, because it is very important for the future of football in this country,” Tshupula said. “In 2019 we will also host the Indian Ocean Games, so there are many things to look forward to.
“If we want to progress, it is very important that we have a big objective. Our first goal is to reach the Africa Cup of Nations finals. It is very important to work hard to reach the continental competition, very important for the future of football in our country.
“At the moment, it is very difficult task because we have a young team, but in football everything is possible. We will work hard to do as well as we can. For the future of football in Mauritius, it is very important to participate in big competitions in Africa.
“As to the World Cup, I think that might be a step too high for us. Only five African teams go to the World Cup. Of course we are putting in the effort, but we have to be realistic.”