The victorious South African Men’s Under-17 National Team (Amajimbos) are back in the country. Amajimbos touched down to a heroes’ welcome on Monday, 29 September after holding Egypt to a 2-2 draw to qualify 4-3 on aggregate for the CAF African Youth Championships scheduled for Niger next year. The Minister of Sport and Recreation South Africa, Fikile Mbalula, and the President of the South African Football Association (SAFA), Danny Jordaan as well the Chief Executive of the Association Dennis Mumble, were on hand to welcome the youngsters at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
Minister Mbalula said he was going to reward the squad monetarily for a job well done. “I reward people who do good things and you reached a historic stage and deserve to be rewarded. You did the country proud. For you to go to Egypt and conquer is a monumental achievement. We had become a laughing stock on the continent that we have good infrastructure and stadiums but have no talent but I am sure you have now demystified this myth,” said Minister Mbalula. Encouraging the corporate to play their part and support Amajimbos financially, Minister Mbalula warned the new heroes to stay away from drugs and stay focused.
“Stay away from drugs and avoid drinking; but you are under 18 and are by law not allowed to drink anyway,” he laughed. Minister Mbalula said football provided hope to the nation and when national football teams do well, the entire country gets a social boost. SAFA President, Jordaan said he was proud of the achievements of the boys but said they should remain focused as there was a lot still to be achieved. The SAFA boss said for now the team needed to savour the great win in Egypt, which has propelled the team to national stardom but should keep their feet on the ground.
“You have the world at your feet, grab this opportunity with both hands. Your achievement is humongous. There are 54 countries on the continent, already you are among the top eight and if you do well in Niger and be among the best four you will represent this continent in Chile. I must advice you, however, work is only beginning now. You have achieved your mission to get to Niger, now the challenge is to keep it up and get to Chile at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. Having seen you grow as a team over the past few weeks, I have strong belief that you are going to make it. As the Association we are behind you all the way.”
Under-17 coach Molefi Ntseki said while it was great to have won and book a passage to Niger, he was already looking to qualify for the World Cup in Chile. “I need to take a few days off, relax with the family and get back to work as soon as possible. There is need to identify more talent to freshen the squad. But I would like to applaud these players for going the extra mile and doing so well for the country. It was a tough outing but they showed a lot of character and mental strength to achieve what they have. I am so very proud of them. And as the President said, the work is not done yet, this is just the beginning. A lot of planning will be needed for us to make it to Chile because Niger is in the past now,” concluded Ntseki.