It’s less than six months to the Tokyo Olympics in Japan later this year and the South African U23 national football team will kick-off their preparation for the tournament with the international calendar in March.
This was also confirmed by SA U23 head coach David Notoane who revealed that they will be going out on a mini-tour outside the continent with the possibility of South America and Asia.
Australia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and hosts Japan are the countries that have qualified from Asia whilst the qualification process in South America is under way. Notoane says they are likely to go outside Africa.
Banyana Banyana who took part in the last two Olympics editions in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and London in 2012 will be missing out on this year’s Olympic Games. They recently visited Japan where they were invited to play the hosts.
With the draw for the games only taking place on April 20, it’s possible that this invite is also from the hosts – but Notoane was non-committal.
With SAFA also having close ties with the La Liga office in South Africa, there’s a possibility of the SA U23’s visiting Spain as their team has also qualified for the Olympics.
On the eve of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament, which took place in Egypt in November, the SA U23s were dealt a huge blow when Phakamani Mahlambi got injured in a game between Mamelodi Sundowns and Chippa United and he was ruled out of the tournament.
But they went on to win the bronze medal and qualified without him, there’s been another injury scare with Portuguese based attacker and livewire Luther Singh on the sidelines for the past a month. But Notoane says he will be returning soon.
The debate around the over-age players continues and Notoane says he’s now identified positions that might need over-age players.
The left-back position seems to be one of those positions and with Bafana Bafana head coach Molefi Ntseki also likely to make the trip to the Olympics, Notoane says they will work together on making this decision. – Report by Velile Mnyandu