Nigeria’s youth national team, Flying Eagles surely have a lot to learn from the South African squad that beat them via penalties in the third place match of the African U-20 Cup of Nations in Niger Republic.
This is the verdict of Amajita coach, Thabo Senong, who footballlive.ng learnt is reflecting on the factors that led to his side’s qualification for the FIFA U-20 World Cup and third place finish at the U-20 AFCON.
En route to nicking bronze in Niamey, Amajita first drew goalless with Nigeria during the group stage, and played out yet another draw with the seven-time champions in the losers’ final, before silencing them via lottery of penalties, but Senong says their victory was well deserved.
He was full of glee, as the squad returned from Niamey on Wednesday, much to the delight of football fans at OR Tambo International Airport, and Senong hailed his players for their achievements.
The Amajita gaffer also reeled out huge contributions from South Africa Football Association (SAFA) in making his youth team’s success possible, especially in ensuring they got to the championship venue very early.
Senong said: “To enjoy the challenge within guided principles, within our game plan, this group of boys have achieved it.
“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.
“Thanks to everyone, their parents, clubs, managers and coaches for their cooperation, and of course on our side, well done to SAFA.
“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.
“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.
“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. They wrote a story as the fourth generation of Amajita players to qualify for the World Cup.
“Thanks to all the stakeholders involved, we’ve always received support. For me personally, I will always thank SAFA.
“I will always thank the president for giving me the opportunity to guide this special group to be part of the history of South African football.”