Thabo Senong. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Thabo Senong. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Amajita coach Thabo Senong has had problems when calling up Europe-based players for a pre-Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations camp‚ but the number of players he has available from overseas still pleases him.

Senong was expecting English Premier League club Leicester City’s 19-year-old forward Khanya Leshabela to arrive in the camp‚ which serves as preparation for February’s Under-20 Afcon in Niger‚ after honouring an Under-23 fixture for his club.

The coach admitted he had struggled communicating with the clubs of Lyle Foster (Monaco)‚ Tashreeq Matthews (Borussia Dortmund)‚ Buhle Damane (Vitoria Setubal)‚ Bradley Cross (Schalke)‚ Kobamelo Kodisang (AD Sanjoanense)‚ and Sphephelo Sithole (Belenenses).

Senong‚ though‚ admitted that such a high number of young players based in Europe was unusual and highly promising for the SA Under-20 team.

“I think the past three years has been a good transition phase for SA football‚” the Amajita coach said. Clubs have exported a lot of players. That augurs well for our football.

“So the U-20s and U-23s will always be in a good space. “Because overseas football offers opportunities where players get to play Uefa Champions League at youth level [Uefa Youth League]‚ and friendlies in other countries because Europe is such a centralised area. It adds to their mental toughness. It’s always good‚ because when we had young players travelling abroad 15 years ago — such as Benni McCarthy‚ Steven Pienaar and Quinton Fortune — you could see they were well developed when they came to serve Bafana.”

Senong ’s camp will be in two phases. This week‚ after starting at the Nike Training Centre in Soweto‚ Amajita travel to Nelspruit next Wednesday where they will play two friendlies.

The second phase is still to be finalised in Senegal‚ with a potential friendly against that country’s Under-20s.

Right-back Sibusiso Mabiliso will join Senong’s squad after playing for AmaZulu in Wednesday’s Premiership fixture against Kaizer Chiefs in Durban.

Local-based players include Cape Town City centreback Duncan Adonis.

Among the attackers are Kaizer Chiefs’ recently promoted playmaker Nkosingiphile Ngcobo and Mamelodi Sundowns left-wing Promise Mk hu m a ‚ the player of the tournament when Amajita won the Cosafa Under-20 Cup in 2018.