Windhoek-Due to persistent financial difficulties, Namibia’s under-17 football team, the Baby Warriors, will not participate in this year’s edition of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Under-17 Cup, the Namibia Football Association (NFA) announced yesterday.
Namibia are the reigning champions of the Cosafa U/17 Cup following their defeated of South Africa 3-1 on penalties in last year’s final in Mauritius after the match had initially ended 1-all.
This year’s Cosafa U/17 Cup is again slated for Mauritius on July 21-30 and the Namibian team was due to make her first title defense, but that aspiration has now been dashed and remains a mere pipedream.
In a media statement issued yesterday, NFA president Frans Mbidi confirmed the withdrawal, saying: “Due to the well-known fact of budget cuts across the board in the country, we are unable, together with the government, to send the team to the Cosafa Under-17 championship. It’s a great pity for this to happen now after winning the cup last year, but we need to face reality and do what is possible.”
Despite the prevailing unfavourable economic climate in the country, particularly at NFA, Mbidi maintained that the country’s senior football side, the Brave Warriors, would still fulfill its obligation of participating in next month’s Cosafa Castle Cup in Rustenburg, South Africa.
The Brave Warriors will kick-start their 2017 Cosafa Castle Cup campaign with a crucial quarterfinals tie against Lesotho on Saturday July 1.
“The Brave Warriors will compete, as earlier stated and as confirmed in the Cosafa senior challenge draw. It’s a matter of priorities for us and we felt we need to compete in the senior challenge. We need to make sure we are involved with international football and right now it’s about priorities until such a time that the situation in the country normalises,” Mbidi further explained.
The draw for the Cosafa Under-17 Championships took place on Saturday and threw up some intriguing clashes, as the eight competing teams had their fate revealed over the weekend.
The sides have been split into two pools, each containing four sides, with the top two advancing to the semifinals. Hosts Mauritius headline Group A, hoping to improve on their 2016 showing, also on home soil, when they exited in the first round.
They are joined this year in Group A by Zimbabwe, Botswana and Malawi, with the latter the only one of the trio to have competed in 2016. The Young Flames of Malawi made the semifinals and eventually finished third, beating East African guest nation Kenya in the bronze-medal match.
Last year’s beaten finalists South Africa are in Group B, along with Zambia, Mozambique and Madagascar. Zambia stormed through the pool stage last year with three wins from three games, but were later disqualified from the competition, having been found guilty of fielding two over-aged players.
They will want to atone for that error and will be among the pre-tournament favourites, given the excellent development structures and fine array of talent they have in the country. Madagascar lost all three of their matches in 2016, while Mozambique did not compete.