The South Africa national U20 team returned from Niger on Wednesday, much to the delight of the football fans at the OR Tambo International Airport.
Amajita not only booked their ticket to the upcoming U20 Fifa World Cup but also claimed a bronze medal at the now concluded Africa Cup of Nations held in Niger.
Nonetheless, on Amajita’s return to the South African shores, head coach Thabo Senong hailed his players for their achievements.
“To enjoy the challenge within guided principles, within our game plan, this group of boys have achieved it,” Senong told the media.
“Well done to them. They were good ambassadors off the field and they were also good ambassadors on the field. So, we managed to achieve two objectives - represent the country well off the field and also represent the country very well on the field,” he added.
Senong also credited Safa for getting Amajita to Niger early as possible to adapt to the conditions.
“Thanks to everyone, their parents, clubs, managers and coaches for their cooperation, and of course on our side, well done to Safa,” he said.
“We were the first country to arrive in Niger besides the hosts because the objective was to train and adapt, get used to the conditions and get used to the food,” he continued.
“And when we started our first match, the players felt at home, against all odds, against a crowd - that was very important. I told the boys; 'if you want to go to the World Cup, don’t lose the first game and make sure the worst result is a point',” he explained.
Senong was also happy to see many of the Amajita players having stepped up from the U17 ranks and hopes to see them represent the country beyond the junior level.
“Then we will just grow within the tournament. They are young and still developing. They grew with every match and they learned a lot because it’s all about them and progression. Eighty per cent of this team was capped at U17,” he said.
“So, they’ve progressed, and they wrote a story for themselves as the fourth generation of Amajita players to qualify for the World Cup. They’ve had an excellent run in the qualifiers and Cosafa. So, they’ve had a good 18 months together, and we just need to make sure that we support them in their development. We have enough programmes at Safa. I see most of our boys going to the U23 team,” Senong expressed.
“For me personally, I will always thank Safa. I will always thank the president for giving me the opportunity to guide this special group of players so that we can be part of the history of South African football,” he lauded.
“Thanks to all the stakeholders involved, we’ve always received support. A lot of countries believed in us, even countries across the Cosafa region rallied behind us and I’m so happy and very proud,” concluded Senong.