Our Under-23 national men’s soccer side completed their first day of training with a comprehensive 8-0 practice match victory on Friday ahead of the CAF Under-23 Championships in Morocco.
The tournament is vital to South Africa’s chances of making the Olympic Games in London next year.
Our boys took on local Third Division outfit Koutoubia Football Club of Marrakech and head coach Shakes Mashaba fielded two teams in each half to give all the players a run ahead of the opening encounter┬á against Cote d’Ivoire on Sunday.
The players took Mashaba’s instructions seriously after he warned them against complacency as well as the danger of putting South Africa’s good name into disrepute by losing to a third division team.
Mashaba’s men responded in a positive way with two first half goals coming from midfielder Christopher Flandorp and defender Thulani Hlatshwayo. The second half saw an avalanche of goals with Bongolethu Jayiya scoring a brace, and other goals registered by Sameehg Doutie, Thandani Ntshumayelo, Siyabonga Zulu and striker Rodney Ramagalela.
Earlier on Friday midfielder Jayiya said the team is ready for the battle ahead.
ÔÇ£We have come a long way as a team to reach this stage. We are mentally, physically and emotionally ready for the championship. We know that we are in a tough group with Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon and Egypt, but our mission is not impossible and our dream to reach the finals is realistic,” said Jayiya.
His words were echoed by midfielder Mandla Masango.
ÔÇ£As players we have reached a stage where we should not celebrate for qualifying to play in tournaments, instead we should look beyond that and strive to win a trophy for our country,” added Masango.
The team will have their final training session at the match venue, Marrakesh Stadium. The opening match between South Africa and Cote d’Ivoire on Sunday kicks off at 10.30pm South African time.