TANZANIA U-17 team, Serengeti Boys today play Mali in their African Youth Championship (AYC) in Group B opener in Libreville in a match that opens head to head history between the two countries.
Tanzania and Mali have never played in any club, senior national team or youth team levels since the two countries gained independence over five decades ago.
Serengeti Boys, most often used to play the so-called African giants, seem not threatened by Mali’s good record as despite having a formidable youth side, the country’s clubs and senior teams, have yet to make big impact in Africa.
The team’s head coach, Bakari Shime, said from Libreville yesterday that his youthful players were geared to win regardless of the status or reputation of the opponents. Apart from being favourite and the defending champions, Mali, Serengeti Boys’ other Group B opponents are Niger and Angola.
“We have played and won against Egypt, Cameroon and the hosts Gabon. The trials gave my boys a good drill and they are now ready to face whoever comes into their firing line,” said the coach.
Adding, he said: “We believe victory in our first match will put us in a good position to perform well in the following matches and subsequently proceed into the next stage,” he disclosed.
Mali cleared to compete after FIFA announced the lifting of the suspension of the Mali Football Federation (FEMAFOOT).
Serengeti Boys, who replaced Congo-Brazzaville after the latter was disqualified on technical reasons after failing to subject one of their players for an MRI test following a protest by the former are pitched in group B alongside Mali, Angola and Niger which will play in the capital of Gabon, Libreville.
Initially, group B matches were scheduled to be played in Port Gentil but the base has now been shifted from Port Gentil in the capital Libreville, while group A which comprise Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea and host Gabon shifts to Port Gentil. The Boys have played a total of six strength-testing games since launching official training camp in preparation for the upcoming AYC finals.
They twice beat Burundi 3-0 and 2-0 on March 30 and April 1, in matches played at the Kaitaba Stadium in Bukoba.
The 2017 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations is a biennial international youth football tournament organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for players aged 17 and below.