Reunion add extra flair to COSAFA Under-20 Championships

Reunion will make their debut at the 2018 COSAFA Under-20 Championships in Zambia next month, the first time the Indian Ocean island have participated in a regional tournament at any age-group level.

Reunion are an associate member of COSAFA and the Confederation of African Football, geographically within the Southern African region, but as an overseas department and region of France, they cannot take full member status.

It means they cannot compete in the qualifiers for the African Nations Cup and the FIFA World Cup, but have proven a power in the Indian Ocean Games, where they have four gold medals and three silver in nine tournaments, competing against the likes of Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros.

It suggests the island, with its population of around 865,000, is a hot-bed of football talent and they will finally get to show that on a regional level when they take their place in Zambia.

“We are delighted to welcome Reunion as an active member of the COSAFA family,” COSAFA President Dr Phillip Chiyangwa says. “We were very pleased when they approached us with the request to take part in our COSAFA Under-20 Championships in Zambia and I have no doubt they will add tremendously to the quality of the tournament on the pitch.

“It is the first time they will compete in one of our competitions and we hope to see them as regular participants in the future at all age-group levels.”

Teams from Reunion do compete in the CAF club competitions and have provided some tricky opposition in the past, not least St Louisienne, who defeated South African side BidVest Wits in the home leg of their African Champions League tie in 2017, further proof of the rich potential on the island.

The island has produced a number of top footballers, including Marseille and France midfielder Dimitri Payet, former Liverpool striker Florent Sinama Pongolle, and ex-Paris St Germain stars Guillaume Hoarau and Laurent Robert.

Reunion will proudly take their place in the draw for the 2018 COSAFA Under-20 Championships, which is scheduled to take place in Kitwe, Zambia on October 31.

The competition itself will be played from December 2-14, where South Africa will defend the title they won in Zambia last year.