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'Obviously I'm very disappointed‚' says Thabo Senong as he heads for exit door

20 June 2019 - 14:59 By Marc Strydom
Coach Thabo Senong of the National U/20 during the South African U/20 Men’s National Team Media Day at SAFA Technical Centre on April 20, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Coach Thabo Senong of the National U/20 during the South African U/20 Men’s National Team Media Day at SAFA Technical Centre on April 20, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Thabo Senong has admitted to his disappointment at not having his contract as South Africa Under-20 coach renewed.

Senong's contract‚ which ends in June‚ will not be extended after a second exit in the first round‚ without winning a game‚ at a Fifa Under-20 World Cup‚ in Poland in May.

Senong‚ who served as Amajita coach for five years from 2014‚ has been involved in unearthing a number of players who have gone on to success at Premier Soccer League clubs.

These include SuperSport United midfielder Teboho Mokoena‚ Chippa United defender Tercious Malepe‚ and the Richards Bay defender Sandile Mthethwa.

He achieved third-placed finishes at the 2017 and 2019 Africa U-20 Cup Of Nations to qualify for an unprecedented two World Cups in succession‚ but exited in the group stages of both.

"Look‚ I loved the Amajita project with all my heart.

"And I enjoyed serving my association as a presenter in coaching courses and also as a scout‚ looking around the country and outside the country to try and bring talent that was not known‚" Senong told TimesLIVE.

"And also‚ I think‚ with my involvement Amajita just moved into another level.

"We dominated Cosafa‚ and now the continent respects us‚ and we have been present in two World Cups. We have achieved a lot.

"I will always be attached to this team. I love this team. And I would have loved to have still helped this team to continue producing players for Bafana and the U-23s.

"So I can never say that I'm happy. But for me to move forward‚ now I have to say that it's a closed chapter‚ until I'm engaged again.

"But‚ you see‚ because of the way I love this team‚ even despite the challenges of the past five years‚ one could never really resign or turn the country down. Because I just saw myself as a national servant.

"So you will always feel that disappointment when you have to stop serving your country as a football technician.

"Especially because I feel that I don't think there is any U-20 coach who has done what I have done with this team.

"So obviously I'm very disappointed. But it is a decision that was taken by the acting CEO [Russell Paul]‚ having consulted with the technical committee and the NEC [Safa council] members.

"And I have to respect it‚ because Safa also trained me to be the coach who I am. They gave me the opportunity.

"And I have to thank them for that and I have to respect their decision."

The coach said he is keeping his options open about whether his next job can be as a club or youth coach.

"To be honest that will be decided after two or three months. It's a very tough market‚" Senong said.

"But look‚ I'm a versatile coach. I've done a lot of courses. I can work as a performance coach‚ head coach‚ assistant-coach.

"I can work as a national coach. You are counting seven years of always working on the continent - Bafana assistant‚ youth assistant‚ U-20 head coach‚ technical advisor.

"So‚ the experience that I've got out of youth coaching‚ as a national coach‚ I hope will open up opportunities."

Senong steered Amajita to runners-up in 2016‚ and winners in 2017 and 2018‚ of the Cosafa Cup.

He also served as Bafana Bafana assistant-coach to Ephraim "Shakes" Mashaba‚ and then initially also to his successor‚ current incumbent Stuart Baxter.

Senong previously worked with the now-defunct Diambars Academy and Orlando Pirates' development.