The inaugural edition of the Council of Southern Africa Football Association (COSAFA) Women’s Under-17 Championship, will kick off today in Mauritius and will see eight teams compete for the trophy.
The tournament will run from 20th-29th September, with the teams split into two groups of four. The top two placed teams per group will qualify for the Semi-finals and subsequently the finals.
Here is a quick round up of all the eight teams.
UGANDA: East Africa guest nation Uganda will make an appearance at the 2019 COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championship as they bring some flair and a different continental style to the competition.
Uganda have never appeared in the FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup qualifiers but having appointed coach Ayub Khalifa to their team this year, could change that in forthcoming editions.
The team’s skipper Juliet Nalukenge already underlined the need to emerge victorious or at least leave a mark on the tournament, stating that they will settle for nothing less than victory.
COMOROS ISLANDS: Comoros have been rare participants at this age-group level in women’s football and have yet to enter the African qualifiers for the FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup. That could change though as they move into a new era of competition at this level.
MADAGASCAR: Madagascar are another side who are looking to take their bow in the FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup qualifiers in the future, so this tournament will be an excellent providing ground for them.
MAURITIUS: The hosts have not been as active regards the women game, but there is renewed interest in the development of Women football in recent years at senior level.
And the development of the senior side relies more on the younger age groups. Therefore, the nation wants to translate the interest in the senior game into the U-17 age group. They have not had that much participation at this level in international tournaments, Coach Kofi Kawata will be looking at the exposure his girls will pick from a tournament of this attitude.
BOTSWANA: Botswana are a team on the rise. Knocking out South Africa from the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, will have served as a boost to women’s football at all levels in the country.
In the U-17 age group, their journey can be best described by the nations never say die attitude, as they have had to put up with heavy defeats.
A humbling 22-1 aggregate defeat against South Africa in the 2010 FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup qualifier, did not deter them as they had a better showing in 2014, losing to Zambia 5-1 and 2-0 over two legs. A narrow 3-2 aggregate defeat against Namibia showed how far they had come.
And in 2018, they finally made it past the first round, extraordinarily overturning a 5-2 first leg defeat, to power past Zambia 6-5, by winning 4-0 in the second leg.
They entered again two years later, but 9-1 and 13-0 losses to South Africa meant a humbling 22-1 aggregate defeat. That did not deter the side though and in 2012 they took on Zambia, putting on a better showing as they lost 5-1 and 2-0 in the respective legs.
Coached by Tapaphiwa Gaebolae, Botswana will want to make it past the group stages at least as they gauge their progress against the better nations in the Southern region.
SOUTH AFRICA: South Africa are the most successful of the COSAFA nations in the women game, winning six tournaments.
They have already played at two FIFA Women’s Under-17 world cups in 2010 and 2018.
The women game in South Africa is well developed, and that development has trickled down to the younger age groups with stars such as Robyn Moodaly, Jermaine Seoposenwe and Kaylin Swart all going through the U-17 development side.
Head coach Simphiwe Dludlu will ask for nothing less than absolute victory in the tournament.
SEYCHELLES: Another of the Indian Ocean Islands that are trying to push the women’s game, Seychelles will make their debut at a COSAFA women’s football event. They have also never competed in the FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup qualifiers previously.
ZAMBIA: Zambia are the only other Southern Africa nation to appear at the FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup after they contested the 2014 finals in Costa Rica.
Zambia are the other team that will give South Africa a run for their money in the chase for the ultimate prize.