South Africa coach Vela Khumalo has spoken of his deep disappointment after the cancellation of the Africa Under-17 Cup of Nations that was due to start in Morocco on Saturday.
The competition was called off after a number of teams had issues travelling to the North African nation, which was made difficult due to government restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
COSAFA champions South Africa had been placed in a tough pool with Cameroon, Senegal and Mali, but Khumalo says they were very much looking forward to the challenge.
“It is a great, great disappoint,” Khumalo tells www.cosafa.com. “A disappointment not just for me but more especially these boys, who were so looking forward to the tournament.
“This is especially so after all the hard work, the planning and preparation that had been put in place, and the fact we were going there to represent the nation.
“I must just say thank-you to SAFA for the support they have given us ahead of this campaign. They had made sure our preparation was as good as it could be under difficult circumstances.
“But while we are very disappointed, we acknowledge that it was out of everyone’s control and we just have to look to the future.”
Khumalo admits the cancellation of the tournament will be a blow to the development of his team, but is hopeful most can make the step up to the Under-20s.
“There are some very, very talented boys in this group and they must now look to take that next step. It is a difficult moment for them, very tough, but they must keep working hard and I think most of them will succeed [in their careers].
“The next step is to make the Under-20s with coach Helman [Mkhalele] and that should be an exciting challenge for them.”
Zambia were also set to compete at the tournament and had already travelled to Morocco to start their preparations.
Coach George Chilufya had spoken last week of their determination to do well in the competition and fight for the trophy, but that opportunity has been taken from them.
They now face a difficult journey home without having kicked a ball in anger in Morocco.