South Africa’s U-23 national men’s football team, Amaglug-glug, are going to next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
They finished third in the recently concluded U-23 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), beating Ghana 6-5 on penalties after a 2-2 stalemate at the end of 120 minutes. They will be joined by the new Afcon champions, Egypt, as well as the silver medallists, Ivory Coast.
The trio of Africa’s representatives have never won medals at the Olympics, so they will be looking to grab a piece of history for themselves.
The only African countries to ever pick up medals missed out. Nigeria and Cameroon were eliminated in the group phase, and Ghana was defeated by South Africa in the third-place playoff.
The Black Meteors took bronze at Barcelona 1992, while the Olympic Eagles and the Indomitable Lions claimed gold at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 respectively.
This is the third time Amaglug-glug have qualified for the multi-sports spectacle, their previous appearances coming in Sydney 2000 and Rio 2016.
They will be hoping third time is the charm and will have eight months to prepare for battle.
“I would like to congratulate my boys for qualifying for next year’s Tokyo Summer Olympic Games,” coach David Notoane said after the game with Ghana.
“We played against a strong side and there could only be one winner from this tie. We will now go back home and come up with a proper preparation plan which will help us get ready for next year’s global sporting event.”
Notoane boasts an extremely talented squad, with some of his starlets plying their trade internationally, and those that play locally forming an integral part of their teams in the Absa Premiership and GladAfrica Championship.
He has at his disposal talents such as Luther Singh, Lyle Foster, Teboho Mokoena, Sipho Mbule, Reeve Frosler, Grant Margeman, Kamohelo Mahlatsi, Athenkosi Dlala and the player who made the team of the tournament in Egypt, Tercious Malepe.
Notoane is hopeful that in the lead-up to the tournament he won’t struggle to get his players assembled to camp in preparation for Tokyo as he did in the lead-up to this Afcon.
“Our domestic competition will end in May, so that is a big headache I am facing. I came into this tournament with a big headache and I am going home happy but with another headache,” he said.
He was alluding to the fact that he went to Egypt with a squad of only 15 players, including three goalkeepers and 12 outfield players, with some eventually joining during the recent international break.
No doubt this refusal by teams to release players would have been disruptive to the team chemistry as well as Notoane and his technical team’s preparations and planning.
He is hopeful that for the Olympics a compromise can be reached for him to get players early, so that by the time the Olympics commence on 22 July, his squad is a comprehensively assembled unit.
“Hopefully, we will find synergy between the FA and the professional league to give this team better preparation,” he added. DM