DURBAN READY FOR U/19 INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL TOURNAMENT
By: Khanyisani Dlomo
With less than 10 days before the inaugural Under-19 International Football Tournament commences in Durban, participating teams are busy sharpening their squads and building mental focus.
Sparks are expected to fly when the hosts, KwaZulu-Natal Academy XI, battle it out with Argentine giants Boca Juniors, Portugal’s Benfica and Italian side AS Roma in group A. In Group B, South Africa’s under-19 national team is housed with English giants Everton, Dutch club Feyenoord and Santos from Brazil.
The tournament comes after almost a year since South African Football Association president, Danny Jordaan vowed to revolutionize the country’s football by prioritizing and strengthening youth development.
Announcing a 20-man squad at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Tuesday, KZN Academy XI Technical Director Paulo Cardoso – who sought players with the “special X-factor” from 11 districts of the province – said players are ready to take on their international counterparts.
“South African football Provincial Championships that were held in Bloemfontein helped us to assess and prepare players for this tournament. We just came from a week’s training camp, that’s where players displayed that they deserve to be in the final team,” Cardoso told reporters.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to show the talent of KZN players. We are very proud of the team. We are working hard and progressing,” Cardoso added.
Coach Scelo Qwabe said players are motivated and ready to fly the province’s flag high.
“The mood in the camp is overwhelming as players are positive and willing to learn new things. Some of them haven’t been exposed to this type of training,” Qwabe said.
“They are very excited. But we’re trying to limit the level of excitement because it might lead to a situation where they don’t perform. We are ensuring that they are focused and ready.”
All teams are expected in Durban by next Wednesday. The tournament kicks off on 31 July and the final will be on 9 August.
Group games will be played at the Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu and Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium in Clermont respectively. Semi-finalists will head to Umlazi’s King Zwelithini Stadium with the final scheduled to be played at the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium.
The entrance is free but for the main grandstand, tickets cost R10 at Computickets.