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Young Zebras coach optimistic despite limited time

The Under-17 training at Lekidi Centre yesterday PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
The Young Zebras coach, Itumeleng 'Tumie' Duiker is optimistic that his side will put up a good showing at the Under-17 COSAFA Championship to be played in Mauritius from July 19 to 29. Duiker however said his side has been dealt a blow as they had limited time to train, due to the players' academic engagements.

“Most of the players are school kids. They have been engaged with their studies as the examinations have been running in the past weeks,” Duiker said.

“Some play in the BISA games and we had one boy who sneaked out of the camp to play for his school team. This is the situation we have to deal with here.”

“We have been training on weekends. This week is the first time we trained for a whole week. They have been responding well. When you coach young boys like these, you would want them to express themselves. We have been working on that I think they are coming up well,” he said.

The Young Zebras are in Group A alongside hosts, Mauritius, Seychelles and Namibia. Duiker’s side will begin their campaign against Mauritius on Thursday, July 19 before taking on Seychelles two days later and finish their group stage matches against western neighbours, Namibia on Tuesday, July 24. The group winner advances to the semifinals, where if they reach the finals they would be guaranteed a spot at the Under-17 Africa Cup

of Nations finals scheduled for Tanzania next year. In the last edition, the Young Zebras were knocked out of the competition in the group stages after they finished third, three points behind Mauritius and Zambia who finished with the bronze medal last year. However, Duiker said this time around there is a lot to play for as his side seeks AFCON qualification and eventually the World Cup berth.

“There is no easy team in this group, that is one thing we leant about football. They may look easy on paper but have tough teams in our group. Last year, we went there and we leant. This time around we are going to play to qualify for the AFCON, which will put us in a position to qualify for the World Cup so there is a lot to perform for,” he said.

The team will leave for Mauritius next week where they will undergo MRI tests on July 12 to 13 to verify their age. They will play a friendly game against eSwatini as part of the preparations.





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