The Boys’ competition at the Region 5 Youth Games Maseru 2020 will provide a new generation of young stars from the Southern African region with the chance to make a name for themselves on the international stage.
It is an opportunity that has lifted many a current senior national team star, not least red-hot Patson Daka, who may be making waves in the English Premier League with Leicester City, but seven years ago was helping Zambia at the same Region 5 Youth Games that were staged in Bulawayo in 2014.
It would be a key introduction to international football for him, and an excellent growth opportunity, which the players this year in Lesotho will also be afforded.
With that in mind, we look back at five players who stood out at the 2020 COSAFA Men’s Under-17 Championship that was played in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa.
JOSEPH BANDA (ZAMBIA)
Banda was the leading scorer in the competition with five goals and took home the coveted Golden Boot prize, a remarkable achievement considering he was just 14 years old at the time!
It was in fact his second tournament having also appeared for Zambia in 2019 when he netted two goals. His pace and trickery on the ball was eye-catching, while he also proved that he is an accomplished finisher.
So impressive was Banda that he later got a call-up to the senior Zambia national side despite his tender age. He has been training with the Barcelona Academy in Lusaka.
KEAVIANO FRANCIS (SOUTH AFRICA)
Francis was a key part of the south Africa side that lifted the trophy in 2020 when they defeated Zambia on penalties in the final.
He is currently part of the Kaizer Chiefs reserve side that plays in the DStv Diski Challenge, having also come through the SAFA School of Excellence, and was named in the South Africa squad for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup before that tournament was cancelled.
He is a striker who will hope to kick-on and star for the AmaKhosi in South Africa’s DStv Premiership in the near future.
CUSTÓDIO HEQUELE (ANGOLA)
Hequele rose to prominence with an excellent hat-trick as Angola defeated Malawi in the group stages, and then came back to haunt them again with the winner in the third-place play-off.
The playmaker finished runner up on the scoring list and clearly showed that he is a real star for the future for Palancas Negras.
ERIC MAKUNGU (ZAMBIA)
The Zambia goalkeeper won the Golden Glove at the tournament in 2020 and made a number of outstanding saves as Zambia cruised through the pool stage unbeaten.
He got his side into a shoot-out in the final as well, but the 15-year-old could not help them to a win over South Africa. He plays for Atletico Club
MDUDUZI SHABALALA (SOUTH AFRICA)
Shabalala won the Player of the Tournament prize for his dazzling displays for eventual winners South Africa and it was just reward for a player who at times seemed to carry the team.
He plays for the Kaizer Chiefs reserve team and just this week started training with the first team, a sign that coach Stuart Baxter is eyeing him as a potential player for the second half of the campaign.