Mabena ready to lead Amajimbos in Algeria

Mabena ready to lead Amajimbos in Algeria

South Africa’s U17 squad for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Algeria from 29 April will be announced this afternoon, with Mamelodi Sundowns teenage sensation Siyabonga Mabena likely to lead the team.

This is despite South African Football Associations (Safa) and Sundowns being at loggerheads over Mabena’s call-up last week, as reported by SABC Sport.

A breakdown in communication between Safa and the club resulted in Mabena missing the first week of camp which started on 10 April. The Dstv Premiership champions had requested to send Mabena to camp last Wednesday after a midweek league game against Golden Arrows but Safa failed to respond to that letter. 

SABC Sport has since learnt that Safa technical director Walter Steenbok and his counterpart Flemming Berg were involved in the initial discussions. While coaches Duncan Crowie and Rhulani Mokwena also communicated prior to the country versus club conundrum playing out in the media. 

Mabena reported for training camp on Sunday after returning from Cape Town where he was eliminated with his club in the Nedbank Cup by Stellenbosch FC. The arrival of the former School of Excellence student, who joined Sundowns in January this year, has excited his teammates and the technical team in the Amajimbos camp.

At the Cosafa-organized Regional 5 Youth Games in Malawi, the 16-year-old from Mpumalanga, who finished as the player of the tournament and top scorer with nine goals, was instrumental in the team's qualification for the Afcon U17 in December 2022.

Mabena, who was an amateur player during the tournament in Malawi, has subsequently become professional and is the youngest player to have played for Sundowns in the PSL era. He made his debut for Mokwena in a 5-1 thrashing of Royal AM when he was 16 years, 1 month, and 4 days old. 

He's since made four appearances in Sky is the Limit colours, gaining valuable experience ahead of an Afcon competition that also serves as a World Cup qualification. The top four teams in the 12-team tournament qualify for the World Cup set to take place from November 10 to December 2, 2023, with hosts yet to be determined after Peru withdrew. 

Crowie will announce his 21-man squad at noon today and it is expected to feature a few names from the overseas-based players who were part of the camp. SA are in tough Group B with Zambia, Morocco, and Nigeria.