The COSAFA Under-20 Championship, sponsored by PPC, gets underway on December 7 at Moruleng Stadium in South Africa’s North West Province where the cream of Southern Africa football talent has gathered.
Swaziland and Botswana get the action underway on Wednesday in an early kick-off before paving the way for a meeting between the hosts South Africa and Lesotho at the same venue.
Speaking ahead of the match, Botswana coach George Mogopodi said they were determined to go all the way from Group B.
“I think it is a good thing for the COSAFA region. It is one way of identifying talent. It is a good base for the boys to get into professional football,” he said.
“It is good to get SADC countries together. We are here not to participate but to win the championship.
“Every team that is here wants to win the championship, but the truth is that only one team can win. I cannot say much about our game against Swaziland because I have not seen them play.”
Mogopodi added that they were not favourites for the championship, which also features guests Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Perhaps even tougher action is expected in Group B where Malawi will line up against past winners, Zimbabwe on December 9 then Zambia on December 11 also at Moruleng Stadium.
Despite not playing an international friendly going into the tournament, the Junior Flames’ coach, Gerald Phiri Senior, believes his charges can match the group’s opponents.
“I am optimistic based on how we performed in six training matches. We won four games and lost two,” Phiri said.
The competition, which has over the years been the breeding ground for talents such as Zambian Collins Mbesuma, Esau Kanyenda of Malawi, Mozambican Manuel ‘Tico-Tico’ Bucuane and Angolan Akwa, winds up on December 16.
This year’s championship promises to unearth the next generation of stars for Southern Africa.
By Peter Kanjere