The Boys’ Under-17 football tournament at the Region 5 Games Maseru 2020 from November 30-December 9 will also serve as the regional championship for COSAFA this year.
Here is a look back at the previous tournaments played in this age-group since the first some 27 years ago.
1994 – SOUTH AFRICA
The first attempt at a regional Under-17 championship was played in South Africa in 1994 and won by the hosts.
They edged the likes of Zambia, Swaziland, and Malawi in the opening stage, as well as recording a 9-0 win over Namibia.
That set up a semifinal with Zimbabwe, which was claimed 5-1 by the hosts, who then defeated Mozambique 2-1 in the decider.
The South African side included several players who would go on to have full international careers, including Delron Buckley, Steve Lekoelea and Wayne Roberts.
But it was Junaid Hartley who proved the star with hat-tricks against Namibia and Zimbabwe, as well as another goal in the final for a tournament tally of seven.
2001 – MALAWI
It would be another seven years before the competition was staged again and this time it took place in Malawi, with the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe playing host.
Malawi ultimately triumphed as they defeated South Africa 3-0 in the decider for what should have been a fine new generation of players, though only Moses Chavula and Robert Ng’ambi truly went on to fulfil their potential.
A number of the South African players also did not make it despite a strong showing again, though the team did include stalwarts Daine Klate and Lebogang Mokoena, who would go on to enjoy fruitful careers.
2002 – SOUTH AFRICA
The tournament returned to South Africa the following year and for the third time running it was the host nation who lifted the trophy.
This time round the competition was played in a round-robin format with the four-team field made up of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland.
The highlight of the competition was a thrilling 5-4 victory over Swaziland.
Mokoena was again the star of the show for the home side as he netted six goals in the three matches played.
South Africa won all three of their games, while the other sides all finished on two points from three games. Swaziland claimed second place on goals scored.
2007 – NAMIBIA
Zimbabwe claimed their first title in this age-group as they edged South Africa on penalties in the final, winning 4-2 after a 1-1 draw.
They eased through the pool stages of the competition, gaining wins over Angola (2-1) and Eswatini (3-1), and ultimately sealed their place in the knockout stages after 1-1 draw with hosts Namibia.
South Africa won both their games in a three-team pool, beating Lesotho (5-0) and Mauritius (3-0), while Zambia edged Malawi to top-spot in Group B but both teams qualified for the semifinals.
South Africa edged Malawi 1-0 in the Last 4 clash, while Zimbabwe needed penalties to see off old foe Zambia as they won 5-4 following a 1-1 draw.
Archford Gutu scored in that game and would do so again in the final as Zimbabwe used a shoot-out once more to lift the title.
2016 – MAURITIUS
It would be a long nine-year wait for the next finals to be played and this time the competition was played on the Indian Island nation of Mauritius.
It proved a wonderful showcase of the skill among young players in the region and was ultimately won by Namibia.
There was a level of controversy when Zambia, who had stormed through their first-round group with three wins from three, and 10 goals scored and none conceded, were disqualified from the competition after being found guilty of fielding two over-age players.
That meant Malawi and East African guest nation Kenya advanced from Group B, while the top two sides in Group A were South Africa and Namibia.
The South Africans eased past Kenya in the semifinals, and Namibia edged Malawi 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
The final also ended 1-1 and Namibia kept up their strong shoot-out record as they edged South Africa 3-1 on penalties. Malawi finished third with a 2-0 success over Kenya.
Top scorer in the competition was Malawi’s Peter Banda with five goals.
2017 – MAURITIUS
Zambia made up for their indiscretion the year before by storming to the 2017 title, beating hosts Mauritius 3-0 in the final.
The Young Chipolopolo started with a bang, beating Madagascar 7-1 in their Group B opener as Lameck Banda and Martin Njobvu both scored hat-tricks, before they edged old rivals South Africa 3-2 but then suffered a surprise 1-0 loss to Mozambique in their final pool game.
They still managed to finish top of the group on goal-difference, with South Africa the runners-up.
Malawi stormed to the top of Group A with three wins from three matches, including a handsome 5-0 win over Zimbabwe. In fact, they did not even concede a goal.
They were joined by Mauritius in the semi-finals after the islanders’ recorded wins over Zimbabwe (1-0) and Botswana (2-1), before losing their final game to Malawi.
The Malawians came unstuck in the semi-finals though as Zambia cruised to a 2-0 win, while Mauritius defeated South Africa by the same scoreline in the other Last 4 game.
The result in the final might have been emphatic in Zambia’s favour, but it took them until the 72nd minute to make the breakthrough as Prince Mumba netted the opener. That was followed by quick goals via Christopher Phiri and Kingsley Hakwiya.
Malawi finished third after they beat South Africa 2-1 in the bronze-medal match.
2018 – MAURITIUS
Angola claimed a first ever COSAFA trophy in this age-group when they stormed to the 2018 title, boosted by the performance of rising star Zito Luvumbo.
They took a full haul of nine points from their three pool games, defeating Malawi (1-0), Eswatini (5-0) and Zimbabwe (2-1) in a crunch group decider to show all their potential.
Namibia topped their Group A following a three-way tie at the top between themselves, Mauritius and Botswana, who all ended with six points.
That meant the top position was decided on a head-to-head basis between the three, with Namibia leading the way. Hosts Mauritius also qualified for a rare semifinal at COSAFA level by virtue of being the best runner-up among the three pools.
South Africa came through a tough Group B to top the pool as they defeated Zambia 2-1 in what proved to be the decider in their final match, putting the defending champions out of the competition.
The South Africans would go on to beat Mauritius 2-0 in the semifinals, while Angola thumped Namibia 7-0 in the other match, Capita grabbing a hat-trick and Luvumbo inevitably on the scoresheet.
Namibia had some consolation with the bronze medal as they beat Mauritius 2-1 in the play-off.
Capita was on target again as his early goal secured a 1-0 victory for Angola over South Africa in the final as they became the sixth new champion in the eight competitions played.
2019 – MALAWI
Zambia regained the trophy they had given up the year before with another dominant display in an eight-team competition in the Malawian city of Blantyre, which hosted a wonderful festival of football.
The Zambians served an early warning of their quality as they stormed through the pool stages, winning all three games and scoring 16 goals in the process.
It includes huge wins over Eswatini (6-0) and an unusually limp South Africa (7-0), as well as victory against Malawi (3-2).
Despite their big loss, Eswatini claimed the runner-up spot in the pool as they beat Malawi (2-1) and drew with South Africa (1-1).
Mozambique were winners of Group B, though defending champions Angola also advanced as runners-up.
Mozambique’s only blemish was a surprise 0-0 draw against Comoros Islands, but they really sealed their pace with a 1-0 win over Angola in their pool opener.
The Angolans won their other two matches in the pool, though without the flair of the year before.
Mozambique edged Eswatini 1-0 in the semifinals to seal a second ever place in the final, some 25 years after their first in 1995.
Zambia defeated Angola 2-0 in their semifinal, before going on to claim the final 2-0 as Rickson Ng’ambi and Joseph Banda scored goals. Angola swept to the bronze medal after a 5-0 success over Eswatini.
2020 – SOUTH AFRICA
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic it was always going to be difficult to host a tournament, but credit to COSAFA’s levels of organisation, they were able to stage the event in South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Bay.
It was due to be an eight-team competition, but four sides had to drop out after a failure to adhere to the Confederation of African Football’s requirements around pre-tournament MRI scans to clear players for eligibility.
It means Botswana, Comoros, Eswatini and Zimbabwe dropped out, leaving only Angola, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia in the field for what was a continental qualifier for the CAF Under-17 Cup of Nations in Morocco that would ultimately later be cancelled.
The teams played in a round-robin single group with Zambia topping the table thanks to their three wins, including a 6-2 success against the Malawians and a 1-0 victory over South Africa.
The latter finished as runners-up with four points from a possible nine, and took on Zambia in the decider, which went to penalties after a 1-1 draw.
South Africa ended up taking the gold medal with a 4-2 win in the shoot-out, while Angola claimed third with a 2-1 victory over Malawi in the bronze-medal game.
Zambia’s 15-year-old star Joseph Banda, who had also starred the year before, claimed the top-scorer award with five goals, while South African Mduduzi Shabalala was Player of the Tournament.