The Girls’ Under-17 football competition at the Region 5 Games Lilongwe 2022 will provide the leading young talent in the region with the chance to showcase their qualities and perhaps catch the eye of a senior national team coach, if they have not already.
The COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championship has often done just that in the past, with players who have excelled then gone on to quickly make an impact in the senior national team.
Here is a list of the leading scorers from the previous three competitions since the inaugural event in Mauritius in 2019.
JESSICA WADE (SOUTH AFRICA) – 10 GOALS
South African sensation Wade played in both the 2019 and 2020 championships and scored five goals in each in a strong show of consistency.
She helped her side to the final three years ago, where they lost to rampant Uganda, but could not repeat that feat in 2020 as the side finished third.
She also has caps at Under-20 national team level but has yet to break into the Banyana Banyana team. She plies her trade in Israel at Emek Hefer, which is a feeder club for Spanish giants Villarreal, where Wade spent a week courtesy of COSAFA earlier in 2022.
AISHA MASAKA (TANZANIA) – 10 GOALS
The Tanzanian playmaker was in superb form as she helped her country to the title in 2020, finishing top-scorer in the competition that was played in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Remarkably, she returned with the senior national team to the 2021 COSAFA Women’s Championship and helped them lift that title too, scoring in the 3-0 group stage win over Zimbabwe. She recently joined Swedish side BK Hacken.
OYISA MARHASI (SOUTH AFRICA) – 11 GOALS
Marhasi is another who played in both the 2019 and 2020 tournaments, though with contrasting fortunes.
She netted 10 goals in helping South Africa to the final in Mauritius but added only one more to that tally in 2020 for a total of 11. She is another one to watch in the coming years.
FAUZIA NAJJEMBA (UGANDA) – 13 GOALS
Najjemba was a key part of the rampant Uganda side in 2019 and was especially potent in the 12-0 semifinal win over Botswana, netting six goals in the game.
She was captain of Kampala Queens but made a move to Kazakhstan where she turns out for BIIK Kazygurt.
She scored a vital penalty in the shoot-out win over Ethiopia as the senior national team advanced to the final stage of qualifying for the 2022 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations and is now a fixture in the team.
JULIET NALUKENGE (UGANDA) – 18 GOALS
The outstanding talent from the 2019 COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championship, Nalukenge has massive potential in the game.
She recently completed a move to Cypriot First Division outfit Apollon Ladies Football Club, which is likely to be a stepping stone to much bigger things in Europe.
She is already an established star in the senior national women’s team, though she surprisingly did not make the final squad for the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco. Her time will surely come.