A NEW history will be written in the country’s football books today when Tanzanian youngsters Serengeti Boys make their debut at the Under- 17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Group B game against Mali in Libreville.
The Stade de l’Amitie Sino in Gabon’s capital, Libreville is the venue which will host the match. Serengeti Boys have qualified for the 12th edition of the Africa U-17 Cup of Nations after beating Seychelles, South Africa, while their third round opponents Congo- Brazzaville were disqualified.
After a series of impressive performances, the time has come for the Boys to unleash their magic at the biggest stage as they look to make a winning start against the Eagles, in a match that will be officiated by Nigerian referee Ferdinand Udoh Aniete.
Bakari Shime’s youngsters look more than ready for the African Youth finals after playing a total of 24 international matches and qualifiers inclusive en-route to the continental meet.
The Serengeti Boys have amassed 15 wins, five draws and lost just four in 24 international games they have played prior to the U-17 AFCON finals, which put the team on the right path to competing against Africa’s best.
They have played against top sides like Egypt, South Korea, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville, South Africa, India, Malaysia as well as Madagascar, Seychelles, USA, Congo Brazzaville, Ghana and Cameroon.
Tanzanians have high hopes on the team and a combination of players like Yohana Mkomola, Nickson Kababage, Shaaban Ada and Kelvin Nashon is expected to spearhead the team to a pleasant win in their first match against Mali.
Mali, nicknamed the Eagles had a walkover against Chad in the second-round of the qualifiers, before defeating Ethiopia to book their place in the finals. Hadji Drame and Sibiry Keita are some of the key players in attack for Mali, who are among favourites having won the 2015 tournament.
Angola and Niger are also part of Group B and the two sides are set to lock horns at the same venue after the encounter between Mali and Tanzania. Serengeti Boys’ second encounter will be against Angola on May 18 before facing the West African Niger on May 21.
The biennial international youth football tournament organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for players aged 17 and below, will see the top four teams qualify for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.
The tournament was originally set to take place in Madagascar from April 2 to 16th, this year. However, CAF Executive Committee decided on January 12, 2017 to withdraw the hosting rights from Madagascar following reports of the CAF inspection teams.
On February 3, 2017, Gabon was selected as the new hosts. Tanzania, the only CECAFA side at this tournament, replaced Congo after a Congolese player, Langa Lesse Bercy, failed to turn up for a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test, while Mali were cleared to compete after their suspension was lifted by FIFA on April 28, 2017.