The Malawi Under-20 football team gets its 20th Cosafa Championship campaign underway today against South Africa’s Amajita at Somhlolo Stadium in Mbabane, e-Swatini.
Coach Patrick Mabedi and his charges will be hoping to exorcise the ghost that has seen them fail to win the regional youth showpiece since its inception.
It has been a rocky old ride, with bouts of despair for Malawi, who the closest they came to winning the tournament was in 2003 when they finished as runners-up.
Malawi are in Pool C, which includes Namibia and Comoros. The top team in each of the three pools will advance to the semi-finals alongside the best-placed runner-up.
The two finalists will qualify for the 2023 TotalEnergies Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations in January. Malawi last qualified for the continental tournament in 1999.
Today’s showdown against the eight-time champions provides Mabedi’s charges a stern test of going past the group stages.
He said they have had good preparations and the target is to start with a win.
Said Mabedi: “Our target is simple—win the first game and then fight to win the second one. Otherwise, I don’t want to put pressure on the boys.”
On whether he has done research on his opponents, the former Kaizer Chiefs caretaker coach said just like his side, Amajita have not been active since the cancellation of last year’s tournament due to Covid-19.
“So, we are almost in a similar situation, but we played four practice matches which helped us work on our shortfalls,” he said.
Mabedi, who has had stints with the Flames, will bank on Bullets Reserves’ Emmanuel Savieli and Zambia-based Chifundo Mphasi while Robert Saizi (Play Football Academy), Chikumbutso Salima (Civo Reserves) and Wongani Kaponya (Bullets Reserves) will grease the wheels of industry in midfield.
On the other hand, South Africa coach Veli Khumalo revealed that he is happy with his squad despite not having all the players he wanted in camp.
He was quoted by South Africa Football Association website as saying: “One can say it has been hectic in the camp.
“It was a bit short notice and one can understand that some of the players we wanted were not released by the clubs. But we are not complaining, we will make do with what we have.
“We need to get past this hurdle [at the Cosafa Qualifier Tournament] and qualify for the Afcon in Egypt next year.”
Malawi’s next match will be on Monday against Namibia.