THE Under-17 national football team left for South Africa yesterday, the venue for this year’s edition of the COSAFA tournament.

The tournament takes place from November 19 to 29, with Zambia expected to defend the title they won last year.

The young Chipolopolo’s first game is against Comoros on November 20.

Coach George Chilufya, who has been drilling the team at Barca Academy in Lusaka, said the technical bench was happy with the 20 boys that have travelled.

“It has been excellent; I think the team is ready. We are injury-free, looking forward to a good tournament. Of course it’s not going to be easy but we have planned for it and we just hope for the best,” he said.

Chilufya will be banking on striker Joseph Sabobo Banda who recently travelled for the Under 15 Croatia tournament.

Chilufya, who has called in a number of U-15 boys who went to Croatia, said their experience would help the team at the tournament that will also be used as Zonal qualifiers for the U-17 Africa Cup of nations.

“It was not so difficult (to pick the final team) because the boys were ready to compete; we had no option but to incorporate them. The boys were mentality good, ready to fight for the nation. The Croatia experience, it gives them that advantage, they look set and very competitive,” said Chilufya.

“Hard work all the time because football, you improve every time and it is always an honour to play for the nation. And we have always emphasised this and I am sure they will put a smile on the faces of the 18 million Zambians and their families. The first game of the tournament is always important. We are not taking Comoros as a light weight. We will give them the respect that they deserve and we will take this game very serious.”

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