Fresh from lifting the 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup in Namibia following a 3-2 victory over Botswana, the South African Men’s Olympic squad is travelling to Japan on Sunday (26 June) for an international friendly match against the host nation.
The South Africans have a long trip ahead of them. They will fly out of OR Tambo International Airport at 17h20, and will land in Hong Kong 13 hours later.
Owen da Gama’s charges will then board a connecting flight to Nagano Prefecture, followed by a three-hour bus drive to the city of Matsumoto.
The match will take place on Wednesday, 29 June 2016 at the General Sports Stadium Alwin in Nagano, Japan.
Kickoff is at 12h30 South African time.
The clash is part of continuing preparations for the SA u23 squad ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games to be held in August.
Da Gama is grateful for the opportunity to fine-tune his squad further after the COSAFA Cup tournament.
“We are very grateful to the Japan Football Association (JFA) for granting us the chance to play this all-important match. We are now just over a month away from the Olympic Games, and we need a few more matches to brush up on our game. We are happy with the work we have put in so far, moreso the achievement we got in the COSAFA Cup – it will go a long way in lifting the morale of the team. The game Japan is crucial in that it will help check how far we have come and what more needs to be done. A win will most certainly keep the positive momentum in the team going on,” said Da Gama.
He added that he is aware of the punishing schedule his players will go through, but a lot of thought has been put into it.
“Yes it is going to be a very long trip but such is international football, however we have a program in place that will ensure that all the players are well rested and injury free ahead of the match. This is will be an exciting experience for the players and a greater test for all of us in our mission to building a strong South African Olympic team,” added Da Gama.
The SA u23 has been drawn into Group A against hosts Brazil, Iraq and Denmark.
Da Gama is travelling with 20 players to Japan – after adding three players to the COSAFA CUP squad. The trio of forward Thapelo Morena (Bloemfontein Celtic), midfielder Paseka Mako (Chippa United) and defender Mothiba Mvalo (Highlands Park) will join up with their compatriots at the OR Tambo International Airport.
Lebogang Phiri will not be part of the traveling party after his club declined to release him.