Once in a while a miracle is born – something out of this world. Intriguing, captivating and bowling over when least expected. The current national Under-17 soccer team epitomises this miracle. From one game to the other they have set new standards for their level as far as this country is concerned. Never before has this team been primed for great things as it is now.
When the 1995 team coached by Michael Spokes Gaborone qualified for the inaugural U-17 African championships in 1995, they didn’t have to face such stiff contest. The passage was less frosty and difficult as compared to the current situation. It is for this reason this team has earned a special place in my heart. They are truly championship material and a great promise for the future.
It is not surprising to hear stories that Premier league teams are clamouring for the players and the coach. Coach Kagiso Kobedi deserves full accolades. While he has been around for sometime, he has never earned the accolades he is currently drawing.
This week is particularly important for him and the team, for this country in short. The team only needs to beat Algeria and book itself a place in the finals. Having drawn 1-all in the last game here at home while playing with a man down, it cannot be assumed that it will be easy away in Algiers. The hosts are not likely to give any room or chance for the local team to do as it wishes.
This will test the full willpower and mental strength of our team and having triumphed before in a hostile environment, all they will need is the Gods of soccer to smile on them. The rest will be history. They have the technique, tactics and quite clearly the big match temperament.
Coach Kobedi knows that this is all they have been fighting hard for. It is now or never for this cream of talent. They have what it takes! It will obviously hurt even more for the youngsters were they to come this close and fail.
It is for this reason that we wish they cross this hurdle. They must focus on that alone. Well psyched, nothing will stop them. There is more to this game than just a place at the final. It is the careers of the individual youngsters. Talent scouts never stop hunting for new talent. Among this current young Zebras team are players with high potential of playing for the best soccer teams in the world.
All they have to do is to improve performance and in the process land a place in the continental finals. It is at the finals where scouts will be tying up deals. Youth championships are regular hunting grounds for European super teams that want to net talent while still young and develop them further for future use. At this stage, this country has regrettably still not managed to produce an export for the leading leagues of this world.
I have every confidence that sooner than later we shall make that history. One player among this crop can defy history and become the first talent. As for me, whatever the outcome of this weekend’s qualifier, I am already quite happy about the achievements of this side.
Accusations from bad losers about the use of overage players will always be there but when we are convinced that we are on the right nothing should stand on our way. Congratulations for going this far coach Kobedi. However, let us go for the kill – overcome this one last hurdle.