The Democratic Republic of Congo will replace Rwanda in the field for the 2016 COSAFA Under-20 Championships, sponsored by PPC, after the latter announced their intention to withdraw from the competition citing technical challenges.
The prestigious junior competition will be held from December 7-16 in South Africa’s North West province, with DR Congo appearing in a second straight regional championship following their visit to the 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup in Namibia in June.
“Much as we had wanted to take part in the championship in a bid to develop our upcoming talents, we have been faced with a challenge of assembling a national Under-20 team since the majority of the players are part of our first division clubs featuring in the 2016/17 Azam Rwanda Premier League season,” said the president of the Federation Rwandaise de Football Association, Mr Vincent Nzamwita.
DR Congo will now take the place of Rwanda in the three-team Group D at the championships, which also include Mozambique and Comoros.
They open their campaign against the Young Mambas on December 10, before a clash with Comoros a day later. Should they be in the top two teams in the pool after that, they will face one of the top two in Group B with only the winner of each pool to advance to the semifinals.
“We are obviously disappointed with the withdrawal of Rwanda from the COSAFA Under-20 Championships as we were looking forward to seeing what this bright young side would bring to the tournament, especially after neighbours Kenya reached the final in 2013. But we understand their reasoning and are convinced that DR Congo will be a worthy replacement, bringing yet another different style of football to the competition,” says Chairman of COSAFA’s Competitions Committee, Mr Timothy Shongwe.
DR Congo football has been on the rise in recent years with the tremendous success of club side TP Mazembe in Confederation of African Football club competitions.
They also have a number of players in the top leagues in Europe and the country has been often seen as producing among the most naturally gifted players on the African continent.
Zambia have been the most successful side in the history of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships with 10 victories to their name, followed by Zimbabwe with six.
Defending champions South Africa have claimed five titles with Madagascar the only other team to lift the trophy after their 2005 triumph.