South Africa coach Molefi Ntseki says the country will take an especially young group of players to the COSAFA Under-17 Championships in Mauritius from July 21-30.
Ntseki has one eye on the qualifiers for the African Under-17 Championships that start next year, and so they want to use this COSAFA tournament to blood those youngsters.
“COSAFA regulations require that we can select players who were born in 2001 or later,” Ntseki says. “But we have decided that we will only look at boys born 2002 and up.
“It’s because we want to give international exposure to players who will still be eligible for the African Under-17 Championship qualifiers next year, so that they can get used to the demands of international football.”
Ntseki will make his final selection for the tournament over the weekend.
“We have had our pre-selection camp last week and have called-up around 45 boys from all over the country for a final camp that will take place from Friday.
“We will put them through training sessions and matches, and will continue assessing them before we select our best 20 for the tournament in Mauritius.”
Ntseki led South Africa to 2015 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Chile, and says to return to that level is the major aim.
“We missed out on the 2017 World Cup that will be played in India, but having had a taste of that tournament and what it is like to be involved at that level, we all want to get back there.
“Obviously we have to start afresh every year as boys move to the older age-group, but our goal is to develop and enhance the talent that we have to match that standard.”
South Africa have been drawn in Group B at this year’s COSAFA Under-17 Championships. They will face heavyweights Zambia, Mozambique and Madagascar, with the top two teams advancing to the semifinals.
Group A contains Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Malawi. The opening match will be played on July 21 as South Africa take on Mozambique.
Ntseki took the side to the silver medal in Mauritius last year, when they were defeated in the final by Namibia.