The Amajimbos, the South African under-17 men’s football team, made history as the country’s first-ever squad to qualify for the u17 Fifa World Cup, which will take place in Chile from 17 October to 8 November.
The Amajimbos beat Cameroon 3-1 in their final Group B match at the African Youth Championship at the General Seyni Kountche Stadium in Niamey, Niger, on Sunday.
Team captain Nelson Maluleke scored twice to go with an early own goal from Fokem Achille. Christian Bayemi scored the West African’s only goal.
The Amajimbos’ win takes them to the semifinals of the tournament – as well as secures them a spot at the World Cup – together with Nigeria, Guinea and Mali.
“We are grateful to God firstly for always being with us, we believe that the entire country is happy,” an elated Amajimbos coach Molefi Ntseki said after the match.
“I’d like to thank the South African Football Association (Safa) and the technical team for all their hard work. Cameroon came with a plan but we had prepared for them very well.”
Bafana Bafana head coach Shakes Mashaba also applauded the team’s significant achievement. “Congratulations to the technical team under the leadership of head coach Molefi Ntseki. We are also happy for the achievement of the players, the very people who did the business,” he said.
“It’s good for our football in general as it has been a long time since we had our junior national teams qualifying for any tournament, let alone the World Cup.
“This means that our structures are starting to shape up very well and this augers well for the U20 squad, which departs for Senegal soon. They will also have to reach the semis to get to the World Cup.
“With all these happenings, you can see that the gods of football are smiling on us and we are on a good course,” Mashaba said.
The national coach said he believed the u17s qualification to the World Cup was an indication of a promising future for South African football.
“The future is looking bright for our football,” he said. “If you look at the u17s, some of those boys will graduate to u20, and those ones will move to u23 and Bafana Bafana.”
South Africa faces Nigeria in the semifinals on Wednesday at the General Seyni Kountche Stadium in Niamey, Niger. Kick-off is scheduled for 4pm local time.
The other semifinal in Niamey is between Mali and Guinea on Thursday, with the final scheduled for 1 March.
South African u17 starting line-up: Mondli Mpoto; Katlego Mohamme; Thendo Mukumela; Revve Frosler; Notha Ngcobo; Athenkosi Dlala; Sibongakonke Mbatha; Nelson Maluleke(c); Wiseman Meyiwa; Luvuyo Mkatshana; Khanyisa Mayo.
Safa and SAinfo reporter