Saturday, 2 August 2014

FOURMIDABLE! South Africa's U17 AmaJimbos crush Tanzania... and are one step from Niger

Master Stroke: AmaJimbos coach Molefi Ntseki
THREE weeks ago I said the future of South African football was bright. On Saturday afternoon at Dobsonville Bafana Bafana’s Under 17 stars proved my point.

In a rousing second leg clash, the AmaJimbos blasted FOUR without reply against tormented Tanzania, a result which will send a serious message to their final obstacle before the African Youth Championship in Niger next year – Egypt or Congo.

Watched by about 1,000. including South Africa’s Banyana Banyana women’s team, Dobsonville was dazzled by coach Molefi Ntseki’s lovable lads.

In front of 5,000 in Dar es Salaam a fortnight ago, South Africa’s finest teenagers were unable to score on the rubber-based astro-turf of Azam Football Club, a surface described as “heavy” by their inexhaustible captain Nelson Maluleke.

On the dry Gauteng surface at Dobsonville, the tidy home of Moroka Swallows, the AmaJimbos thrived. Tanzania went behind after just four minutes and despite an attempted second-half revival a mixture of South African winter – some of the Serengeti Warriors were wearing gloves (!) – altitude and pure pressure led to rapid submission.

It was surprise striker Edwin Sekhwama, drafted in from the School of Excellence, who opened the scoring, breaking clear to poke the ball under Tanzania keeper Metacha Mnata after just four minutes.

Before the match, assistant coach Shawn Bishop told me: “We’re playing Edwin alone up front, with Mamelodi Sundowns’ winger Notha Ngcoba changing wings to bamboozle Tanzania.”

It worked like a charm. Though the first half failed to produce another goal – leading to a rollicking at the interval from coach Ntseki – Bafana’s young guns were in charge for the first 45 minutes.

And when Tanzania threatened to grab what would have been a decisive away goal early in the second half, SuperSport United goalkeeper Mondli Mpota produced a brilliant one-handed save, denying Seif Said Seif, to keep South African noses in front.

The visitors rattled Mpota’s bar with a free-kick too, but then Ntseki changed things, going with three up front and throwing on Port Elizabeth lad Khanyisa Mayo, son of former Bush Bucks and Kaizer Chiefs striker Patrick.

Supersub Mayo finally ended the Tanzanian resistance, stabbing home a near-perfect cross from Sekhwama and then bravely heading a second over the advancing Mnata to make it 3-0.

And a rousing victory was capped by the goal of the day from Thendo Mukumela, who came romping forward, beat two down the right, then cut in to score a sensational fourth.

Ntseki – and the entire SAFA contingent – were cockahoop afterwards. “I call this Operation Niger,” said Molefi afterwards, “I knew we would find a way past Tanzania, and we did. Now we are one step from the AYC in March next year against Congo or Egypt. I don’t care who we get, we’ve proved we can score goals and win crucial games.”

If the AmaJimbos reach the semi-finals in that tournament, the top four African sides automatically qualify for the World Cup in Chile next year which, Ntseki admits, “would be quite an achievement.”

Perfect timing: Centre back Keanu Cupido
But for now, South Africa can celebrate a serious triumph after the obstacles placed in their way in Tanzania a fortnight ago, where a nearby Mosque kept the players up all night in a hotel with poor food and one rickety lift.

On a run of six games unbeaten - the AmaJimbos won four friendlies on artificial surfaces in Botswana and Lesotho before the trip to Dar es Salaam - serious optimism pervades the group, anchored by the timing of towering Keanu Cupido, the rock solid centre-back from SuperSport United. Rarely have I seen a Bafana selection look so complete.

The highlight? Captain Maluleke hugging my son Matthew, 9, afterwards, grinning, high-fiving. “We did it!” he yelled. "Now for Egypt!"

Oh, and THIS video of the singing in the tunnel before the game. South Africa flummoxed the Tanzanians with their singing at Azam in the first leg. And when the visitors attempted to turn the tables in Soweto, the AmaJimbos simply raised the roof. Quite a curtain raiser.

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Kingston Nkhatha's wonder goal for Kaizer Chiefs against Aces at Soccer City is too good not to see again. Have a long at the Zimbabwe striker's effort HERE... it's as good as anything you'll see globally this weekend:

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