Mutapa returns to lead Zambia at the COSAFA Under-17 Championship

Zambia will be led by coach Osward Mutapa at the COSAFA Men’s Under-17 Championships to be staged in Malawi from October 11-20.

The experienced Mutapa was until recently coach of Lumwana Radiants and will be back in charge of the Zambian side after leading them to the 2016 tournament in Mauritius. The Young Chipolopolo were disqualified from that tournament for fielding two over-age players, Nicholas Mulilo and Benjamin Phiri.

Mutapa has a fine pedigree in youth and senior football though and will bring bags of experience to the role as he seeks to plot a path to the gold medal.

Zambia open their Group A campaign against Botswana on October 12, before a clash with South Africa two days later, and then a final pool game versus Malawi on October 16.

Zambia have been regular participants in the COSAFA Under-17 Championships down the years, but for all their power in the region have only lifted the trophy once.

They picked up a bronze in their first appearance in 1994, defeating Namibia (5-0) and Malawi (3-0) in the pool stages to go with draws against South Africa (1-1) and Eswatini (0-0).

They came unstuck in the semifinals though after a 2-1 loss to Mozambique but rallied to beat Zimbabwe 1-0 in the third-place play-off.    They played just a single pool game in 2001, a 3-0 victory over Lesotho, before losing 5-4 to Malawi in the semifinals. Again, they took home the bronze with a 2-0 victory over Eswatini.

They did not play in 2002 but returned in 2007 and once more had to settle for bronze. A 1-1 draw with Malawi was followed by an 8-0 success over Botswana to see them top their pool.

Zimbabwe were their semi-final opponents and after a 1-1 draw, it was The Baby Warriors who triumphed 5-4 on penalties. Zambia beat Malawi 1-0 in the third-place play-off.

In 2017 they advanced into the knockout stages with wins over Madagascar (7-1) and South Africa (3-2), and despite a 1-0 loss to Mozambique.

After a 2-0 semifinal win over Malawi, Zambia completed a comprehensive 3-0 victory over hosts Mauritius in the final to take gold.

They could not defend that title in 2018 though as the team surprisingly exited in the first round. A 0-0 draw with Mozambique was followed by a 1-0 win over Lesotho, but their fate was sealed by a 2-1 loss to South Africa.

Zambia have only appeared at the African Under-17 Championships once before, making their debut in 2015, but bowing out in the first round.