COSAFA breaks new ground with Women’s Under-17 Championship

COSAFA’s quest to fast-track the development of women’s football continues next month when the inaugural COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championship is staged in Mauritius from September 20-29.

Fresh from the hugely successful COSAFA Women’s Championship and COSAFA Women’s Under-20 Championship that were held in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa recently, the region will hold its third tournament for aspiring female players in a little over a month.

It will be the first time ever that an Under-17 championship has been played for women, and forms part of COSAFA’s mandate to grow the opportunities for female players and provide them with the platform in which to gain valuable international experience.

It is often stated that the Under-17 age-group is among the most important as it provides a first opportunity for players to test their ability on a global stage and against their peers.

The eight-team field will this year include Botswana, Comoros Islands, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and East African guest nation Uganda, who will bring an added flair to the tournament.

The teams will be split into two pools each containing four sides, with the top two teams in each pool advancing to the semifinals.

The draw for the tournament will take place at COSAFA House – Johannesburg on Wednesday, August 28 at 11h00.

The competition will serve as vital preparation for the teams ahead of the qualifiers for the 2020 FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup that will be staged in India.

South Africa and Botswana entered the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Uruguay, with the

former qualifying for the finals tournament, with many of those players having already earned a

taste of full, senior international football, such has been their rapid progression.

The likes of Sibulele Holweni and Karabo Dhlamini used their experience in Uruguay when they were selected to the squad for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

“The first ever COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championship is part of our commitment as a region to grow the women’s game at all age-group levels and we are excited to add the tournament to our calendar,” says COSAFA President Dr Phillip Chiyangwa.

“We send our thanks to the Mauritius Football Association for being our hosts in 2019 having staged the boys’ Under-17 championship for the previous three years. We look forward to assessing the talent in the eight competing teams and will follow the progression of these players through the Under-20 and into the senior age groups.

“South Africa have qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Zimbabwe went to the last Olympic Games in 2016 and Zambia appeared at the African Women’s Championship last year.

“Women’s football in our region is on the rise and competitions such as this one can only help to boost it further.”

This will be the fourth tournament that COSAFA have staged in 2019, with two more to follow.