LaLiga Santander to provide opportunities for young COSAFA footballers

Spain’s LaLiga Santander will again be providing young players from the COSAFA region with the opportunity of a lifetime and the chance to visit one of the world’s great footballing nations in 2022.

LaLiga Santander will be affording one player each from the Boys’ and Girls’ Under-17 football tournament at the Region 5 Games Maseru 2020 with the chance to sample the sights, sounds and soccer of Spain.

Those competitions run from between November 30-December 9 and will also serve as this year’s regional championship.

The same opportunity will also be afforded to one player from the COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championships that are scheduled for December.

The winners will enjoy a week in Spain and get the chance to train with a LaLiga Santander Development team.

Two boys and two girls that were selected in 2020 for a week’s LaLiga Santander ‘experience’ must still make their journey to Europe, with the trip having been placed on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zambia’s Joseph Banda and Tisilile Lungu, and South Africans Jessica Wade and Mduduzi Shabalala, will make the trip in the coming months providing they meet the strict COVID-19 travel requirements of Spain.

“It’s an incredible opportunity,” Wade said. “To get the opportunity to go to Spain and train with local clubs and learn about their football culture is incredible and such a wonderful prospect.”

Lungu is also delighted with the chance to go to Spain and assess her skills there.

“I’m so excited and I’m looking forward to meeting other people and to learn from them,” she says

Zambia captain Prince Mumba was named Player of the Tournament at the 2020 COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championships and won an ‘experience’ with leading side Villarreal CF.

Those plans were thwarted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Mumba was to have the chance to train with the club’s famous academy team, have a meet-and-greet with the first team, a tour of the club’s world-class facilities and take in a Villarreal CF fixture in LaLiga.

One player who did get to live his dream was Zambian Patrick Gondwe, who had a similar experience with CD Numancia after he was named Player of the Tournament at the COSAFA Under-20 Championships that were held in Lusaka in December 2019.

He has since found his way into the senior national team side, and will no doubt be thankful for the time he spent in Spain in terms of providing him with a blueprint for success at the elite level.

The opportunities for young players are part of an agreement signed with LaLiga Santander in November 2020, ensuring a steady stream of activities in the coming years that will benefit the growth of the game.

Other aspects will include commercial and marketing activities, match organisation, security, international communication, and digital strategies.

“These experiences will be much more than just taking in the sights and sounds of Spain, it will show the players what it takes to be a professional footballer overseas,” says COSAFA General Secretary Sue Destombes.

“For most of the players who take part in our Under-17 and Under-20 tournaments, the dream is to be a professional footballer and for women especially across our Southern African region, which is now an attainable goal.

“But it takes hard work and dedication, as well as skill, and so a first-hand glimpse of what is required will be an excellent learning experience.”

“We at LaLiga are extremely happy to be able to provide some of COSAFA’s most talented young men and women footballers with the chance to travel to Spain to not only experience the country, but to hone their skills at some of the world’s best facilities and with some of the world’s leading coaches.”

“These trips will be important for their development as aspiring professional footballers, and we look forward to finally making these experiences a reality, as LaLiga continues to invest in supporting the development of Southern African football,” said Marcos Pelegrin, Managing Director of LaLiga Southern Africa.