Premium Journalist
4 minute read
24 Apr 2015
10:31 am

Caf gives SA Under-23 Rio Olympics boost


The South African U23 Men’s National Team has been given a timely boost by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.

Owen da Gama. Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images

Caf has revised the U23 Men’s fixtures following the withdrawal of DR Congo as hosts.

South Africa was scheduled to face the tough Senegal side in the second round of qualifiers next month, but now the Senegalese have replaced DR Congo in hosting the final tournament next month.

This means Senegal will no longer be participating in the qualifiers, giving Owen Da Gama’s charges a passage into the third and final round where they will play against the winner of the 2nd round clash between Zimbabwe and Swaziland.

The 3rd round fixture – home and away – will now take place in July, with the first leg penciled in for the weekend of 17-19 July and the return leg two weeks later (31 July – 2 August).

The Caf U23 Championship will take place from 28 November – 12 December 2015.

The top three countries – the finalists and winners of 3rd /4th place – among the eight nations in Senegal will represent Africa in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Meanwhile, the journey for the continental places for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games take-off this weekend with the first leg matches of the qualifiers for the African U-23 Championship Senegal 2015.

The African voyage to the 31st edition of the quadrennial multi-sport event commences with places at the eight-team tournament later in December in Senegal, where the top three finishers will qualify to represent the continent at the final tournament in Rio de Janeiro next year.

Six teams will be involved in the battle for three tickets to the join the 16 teams, who drew a bye at the initial round for the second round.

Amongs those sides is Ghana, the first African side to win a medal at the Olympics, bronze medal at the 1992 edition in Barcelona, Spain, who face a tricky test against Liberia.

The Black Meteors have missed out on the last two edition of the Olympics, 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London), and much is expected from head coach Malik Jabir and his charges to rewrite the books to achieve qualification.

Jabir, a former national striker, is very much aware of the prestige that comes with playing at the quadrennial tournament, having had a feel of it himself at the 1972 edition in Munich, has a huge task on his shoulders after Ghana were edged out by Sudan 2-1 on aggregate at the same stage four years ago.

The Meteors were undone by a surprise 1-0 loss in the first leg in Accra, a feat Jabir is keen on avoiding in the encounter billed for the northern Ghanaian city of Tamale, which is gradually becoming a bastion for the national teams.

Barely two weeks ago at the same venue, the Olympic team sealed their place for the 2015 African Games Brazzaville 2015 after a 2-0 win over Mozambique, and will be looking forward to replicate the dose against Liberians.

A major source of worry for Jabir is the unavailability of his foreign legion, which has forced him to hand a surprise call-up to striker Richard Gandze of second-tier side, Ebusua Dwarfs for the match.

For Liberia coach, Thomas Kojo, the presence of three foreign-based players; Herron Scarla Berrian of Greek side, Platanias, Ivorian-based Sporo Somah and Cooper Gaypia of the University of Mt. Olive in the United States of America serves a major boost to their quest to upset their hosts.

Rwanda will face Somalia in a regional derby at the Amahoro Stadium in the capital, Kigali in what will be the first competitive match for new coach, Johnny McKinstry, who doubles as trainer of the senior team, Amavubis. The 29-year old Irish is happy with his charges preparations for the dicey encounter against the Somalis guided by Uganda-born Charles Mbabazi.

In Italy-based Bon Fils Kabanda, Solomon Nirisarike of Belgian side, Royal Antwerp and USA-based Yves Rubasha, the Amavubis have a strengthened side to achieve the first leg cushioning at the expense of the Ocean Stars.

Somalia appear ready for the test after managing a lone-goal victory against a select side of foreigners in their domestic league last Monday with Mohamed Ali Ibrahim scoring the only five minutes from time.

In south-eastern town of Lobatse, hosts Botswana will be looking to make their home advantage count against Kenya at the Lobatse Sports Complex.

The second leg matches will take place in a fortnight.


Friday, 24 April 2015
Botswana vs Kenya

Saturday, 25 April 2015
Rwanda vs Somalia

Sunday, 26 April 2015
Ghana vs Liberia