The national Under-17 side that plays World Cup hosts Chile at Athlone Stadium today was given a rousing sendoff at a gala dinner on Friday.
The cherry on top was a R25 million cheque handed to Safa president Danny Jordaan by Burger King chairperson Hassen Adams as part of the company’s five-year extension of its sponsorship.
He said he was pleased with the developments in junior football since his company got involved with junior and women’s teams two years ago.
“I am confident that Amajimbos [the Under-17 team] will succeed in being ambassadors of South African football in Chile,” said Hassen.
“Having grown up in District Six playing football on concrete streets, I am very passionate about the sport.”
Jordaan said no cost had been spared in ensuring the team was well prepared for the tournament.
“The team is leaving on Tuesday so they can have enough time to acclimatise,” said Jordaan.
Explaining the choice of Chile as today’s opponents, Jordaan said: “Chile are not in our group, but playing against them will give our boys a good sense of how South American opponents play.”
Not all was hunky-dory, though. Some members of the national executive committee (NEC) registered their concern that one of the members of the Amajimbos’ technical staff was Stavros Tsichlas (as goalkeeper coach), son of Anastasia Tsichlas, who chairs the Safa technical committee.
However, Anastasia Tsichlas and Safa CEO Dennis Mumble dismissed the concerns as baseless.
“We dealt with that issue at the onset,” said Mumble. “The coach [Molefi Ntseki] insisted on him and this was discussed by the technical committee at a meeting where Ms Tsichlas was asked to recuse herself. The committee agreed on his name with no objections.
“This decision was on a list of six backup coaches taken to the NEC, which endorsed it with no objections.”
Tsichlas said she was disappointed there were people bringing up this matter on the eve of the team’s departure for such a mammoth task.
“I was the first to raise the issue with the CEO when I heard that the coach was insisting on Stavros. I told him I was very uncomfortable with this but it went on to the committee and eventually the NEC.
My biggest disappointment is that the same people who approved and endorsed the decision are the ones raining down objections from the corners now,” she said.
The Fifa Under-17 World Cup runs from October 17 to November 8 in Chile.