Mauritius will be hosts of the COSAFA Under-17 Championship for the third year running having shown their commitment to football development in the region by staging the showpiece event in the youngest age-group category.
Their previous two finals have both been excellent events, with Namibia emerging as surprise winners in 2016 and powerhouse Zambia taking home the title 12 months ago. This year’s competition will be played from July 19-29 at two venues – the Auguste Vollaire Stadium in Flacq and St Francois Xavier Stadium in the Mauritian capital of Port Louis.
And with the competition expanded from eight teams to 12 in 2018 as it doubles up as a qualifier for the African Under-17 Championships, there will be added pressure on organisers and more matches to be played.
Mauritius will also be focussed on developing their own youngsters after the national side came off a mixed 2018 COSAFA Cup in the senior men’s competition. They defeated Malawi 1-0 for an excellent victory, but then lost to Angola (0-1) and Botswana (0-6) to exit in the first round.
Coach Francisco Filho has previously spoken about the potential of the players in Mauritius and that starts at the Under-17 age-group level, which will make him a keen observer in this tournament.
“I have noticed that there is a great willingness to learn and improve here in Mauritius,” Filho said. “It is most important. You have to learn the basics, and then climb the ladder step by step.”
“A lot remains to be done in Mauritius especially at technical level. In football, the most important thing is technique whereas the physical part comes next.
“Above all, with these youngsters, we must make them footballers before we make them athletes. We must promote the skill and execution of movement.”
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 national Under-17 side went out in the first round of the COSAFA Under-17 Championship in 2016 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 reached the final in 2017 though after pool stage wins over Zimbabwe (1-0) and Botswana (2-1), was followed by a 2-0 success over South Africa in the decider.
They were well beaten in the final though as Zambia romped to a 3-0 success.
They will be cautiously optimistic of bettering that result this year in a Group A that includes Botswana, Namibia and Seychelles.