Takudzwa Chitsiga Sports Reporter
COSAFA president Philip Chiyangwa has reaffirmed his regional body’s commitment to develop the game and reckoned that their Under-20 tournament set or Zambia early next month is one of such platforms they have preserved for talent identification.
Chiyangwa also described yesterday’s draw for the 2018 edition of the MOPANI Mines COSAFA Under-20 tournament as one full of potentially exciting fixtures.
“It is an exciting draw and one that will produce plenty of thrilling football during the competition, but also a chance for these boys to test their skill against their peers from around the region.
“The MOPANI Copper Mines COSAFA Under-20 Championships is another step towards us fulfilling our mandate to provide development opportunity to players, coaches, matches officials and administrators and will be the fifth tournament that we as COSAFA will manage in 2018.
“We are proud to continue to play our part in developing Southern African football and are grateful to our sponsors MOPANI Copper Mines and our gracious hosts, the Football Association of Zambia, for their continued support,” Chiyangwa said. The tournament returns to the copper belt after a successful staging in Kitwe last year and will be broadcast live on Kwesé TV.
“At Kwesé we pride ourselves in broadcasting nothing but the best in sports. As a broadcast partner for COSAFA in Africa, we are proud to offer a pan-African platform to showcase our continent’s phenomenal sporting talent on Kwesé’ s extensive broadcast network. With active Kwesé TV subscriptions, sports lovers can follow the season from kick off to the finals on TV or on the move on Kwesi’s mobile app,” said Country Manager for Kwesé TV Zambia, Progress Chisenga.
Zimbabwe are six-time winners of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships but have exited in the first round in each of the last two years and will be desperate to atone for those disappointments.
Only the top team in each pool and the best-placed runner-up advance to the semi-finals, where the competition switches to a knock-out format.
The Young Warriors were drawn in Group C that includes last year’s runners-up Lesotho as the top seeds, Angola and Botswana, who return to the regional championship after skipping last year.
Hosts Zambia have been drawn in a tough Group A at the 2018 MOPANI Copper Mines COSAFA Under-20 Championships to be staged in Kitwe from December 2-14 as they seek to regain the trophy they last won two years ago.
Zambia have been drawn alongside Malawi, Mozambique and newcomers Réunion who will bring an extra dimension and something of the unknown as an associate member of COSAFA.
All three will present a stern challenge for Zambia, who were also crowned 2016 African champions, but disappointingly exited in the first round in Kitwe last year.
Group B contains holders South Africa, their traditional rivals at age-group level Namibia, Mauritius and eSwatini. It is another tough pool to call with the teams likely to bring much-changed squads in 2018. A version of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships was first played in 1983, with Zambia leading the way with 11 titles, while Zimbabwe and South Africa have six each and Madagascar one.
Zimbabwe Under-20 coach Bhekithemba Ndlovu felt the draw was fair on his Young Warriors.
Ndlovu is under pressure to pick an Under-20 side that is representative of the best young talent from around the country and avoid another poor show at the tournament in Zambia.
“I think the draw is fair and we are looking forward to the tournament. We will start preparations as early as we can and we are going there with a winning mentality. “The youngsters we will be using are the future national team players and they will need this exposure. There are no longer big or small teams so will do our best and we will take a look at the ongoing U-18 and U-20 tournaments as well as some juniors registered by the Premier league teams.
2018 MOPANI Copper Mines COSAFA Under-20 Championships Draw
B1 South Africa