The Malawi Under-20 soccer team, one of the Young Warriors, opponents in the forthcoming Cosafa Under-20 Youth Championships, which gets underway in Botswana on Friday, has pulled out of the tournament.
Malawi, who have their senior team participating at the ongoing Cecafa Championship in Tanzania, cited financial difficulties for the pullout.
They had been drawn against Zimbabwe’s Young Warriors who depart for Botswana this afternoon.
Malawi become the second team to pull out of the tournament after Comoros Islands withdrew out prior to the draw also citing the same reasons and only 12 nations will now battle it out for honours.
This is the second consecutive year that Malawi have withdraw after they failed to pitch up in South Africa in last year’s edition of the competition.
The Young Warriors, who are in the tricky Group A, will now have to fight against the fast-improving hosts Botswana and Swaziland.
Denver Mukamba, who is expected to be the torchbearer for the Young Warriors team in Botswana, said, the team had enough arsenal to bring home the title.
The young midfielder, who has been in irresistible form for his financially troubled team Kiglon, is expected to provide balance in the team that is in itself awash with talent.
“We have talent in the team, and I think ours is the strongest team in the tournament,” said Mukamba.
“We have a good blend of players from the lower leagues and the Premiership and I hope we are going to win the cup,” added the 19- year-old player.
Mukamba said the tournament would present a chance for the young players to shine at the international stage.
“You never know who will be watching these games, this is the stage for most of us to shine and get noticed by big teams from the region and even overseas clubs,’” added the buoyant midfielder.
He said although the team had quality players but expected a tough challenge from Botswana.
“The Botswana team has been improving over these years but I’m still optimistic we are going to do well. As I have said already, we have quality players with good fighting spirit so I don’t think there is anyone who is capable of stopping us.”
The Young Warriors team will go into the tournament as the big favourites as they are the most successful team in the history of the competition.
They have won the prestigious cup a record six times, the last victory coming in 2007 when the team was under the tutelage of Methembe Ndlovu who humiliated hosts South Africa 3 – 0.