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Baby Warriors off to regional title games

by Rodney Pienaar

Namibia’s under-17 national team also known as the Baby Warriors will be taking part in the regional title games in Mauritius next month.

The team will also have to fight for a place in next year’s continental under-17 finals as the winners of the 2018 COSAFA under-17 championship tto qualify for the finals in Tanzania next year, according to an NFA press statement released last week.

“It is the third year in a row that Mauritius has acted as hosts, and for local fans, it will be an opportunity first-hand to see the brightest young talents from the region on display. The draw for the finals was made at the recent COSAFA Cup senior men’s competition in South Africa and has produced three intriguing groups,” the press release notes.

Namibia's Paul Shakes Malembu, who this week worked with 26 players, will face the host Mauritius in Group A, as well as Botswana and Seychelles with the group winner advancing to the semifinals while the runner up, determined first by the number of points obtained, advance from the group stages to the semifinals.

Group B promises to be a hard-fought win with defending champions Zambia up against regional powerhouse rivals South Africa, Mozambique and Lesotho.

Group C also has an unpredictable air about it as Zimbabwe faces-off with Angola, Malawi and Swaziland.

Matches will be played at the Auguste Vollaire Stadium in Flacq and St Francois Xavier Stadium in the Mauritian capital of Port Louis and Namibia and Seychelles will open the tournament on July 19, with the pool stage to continue every day until July 25.

A regional Under-17 championship has been played in various guises since the first in 1994 that was won by South Africa on home soil with a 2-1 victory over Mozambique in the final.

Malawi claimed the title in 2001 as they beat hosts South Africa 3-0, before a year later; the latter regained the trophy after finishing top of a mini-group of teams.

Namibia claimed what was seen as an unlikely triumph in 2016, before Zambia took the trophy home last year.