CECAFA U-15 Final: Uganda cap off an impressive ran with a 4-0 victory over Kenya to win the first CECAFA U-15 title

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We got into the business end of the CECAFA U-15 as the semi-finals kick-off on Wednesday afternoon.

This tournament has been explosive. In the group stages, we saw host nation Eritrea succumb to a shock defeat to surprise packages of the tournament Burundi. Then, they went on to play some exhibition football against Sudan and Kenya. While they resoundingly beat the former, that wasn’t enough to beat Kenya in a packed and noisy atmosphere at Stadium Asmara. Kenya looked like seasoned professionals in their first two matches against Sudan and Somalia but drew against Burundi and stuttered against Eritrea in their final group match. But that was enough to see them secure top spot in their Group A. In Group B, Uganda, albeit some of its influential players’ age coming into question from the media and spectators, won all of their group stage matches without conceding any goals, which speaks volumes of their superiority in this tournament. Rwanda were the other team who advanced to the semis from group B. The wasps could give Kenya a run for their money in the semis.

 

The first kick off of the day was between Kenya and Rwanda. In a lackluster first half both teams showed no intensity, looking reserved when going forward. If anything Rwanda looked the better of the two. Kenya, on the other hand, couldn’t get the ball to their influential midfielder, Kevin Wangaya. However, in the second half, it was Kevin who got the early goal and gave his side the much needed lead. Nonetheless Rwanda equalized when a low driven free-kick from Sibomana Sultan beat the impressive Lwangu Alvin. Normal time ended with both teams playing a one all draw. According to CECAFA regulations, it meant there was no extra 30 minutes to play. Instead both teams went straight into penalty kicks. It was Kenya’s Kevin Wangaya who scored the Harambee star’s decisive penalty to send his team to the finals after Rwanda’s Mbony Yamahoro and Niyo David of Rwanda missed their penalties.

In the later match of the day, the mighty Uganda took on surprise packages Burundi. By the time Ethiopian referee Lemma Niguissie ended the first half, Uganda were four goals to the good and on cruise control. The game was already done and dusted and everyone knew Burundi weren’t going to mount a comeback in the second. In fact, Uganda went on to add two more goals. Burundi’s fairytale ran in this competition came to an end with a 6-0 defeat. In the first half it was Ogwal Travis who gave the young cranes the lead inside eight minutes. A minute later Uganda added a second, this time from Kyeyune Abasi who headed home from Kaddu Caros’s cross. Uganda had to wait 29 minutes for their third goal. This time it was Mutyaba Travis who got on the end of a scrappy bit of defending from Burundi’ back line and Travis sent the ball past the overwhelmed Burundi goalkeeper Ntirandekura Eloge. Deep into additional time of the first half Uganda’s Captain Mulema Vincent added a fourth from a well hit free kick, Uganda all but ensuring their spot in the finals. In the second half Mutyaba Travis added his second of the day after Ssekibengo Ssembatya scored Uganda’s fifth of the day. At the end, Uganda were too good for Les Hirondelles who surpassed everyone’s expectation in this tournament.

The tournament has been special throughout, the camaraderie between players and teams, the different cultures on display spoke volumes. Eritrea was greeted in the tunnel by the Ethiopian players after their win over Sudan. The Sudanese did the same the very next day, this time they greeted their close neighbors South Sudan. During the match between Eritrea and Somalia, Eritrean players in the bench went over to the Somali’s side for the latter’s national anthem and stood next to each other hand in hand. We saw numerous occasions that cemented football’s other name ‘the people’s game’ even more.

However, when the final was played out between Uganda and Kenya yesterday and the former capped off a dominant display of football throughout the tournament by beating their opposition 4-0, the entire match felt like it was boys against men. Uganda began the match on top and took the lead within 17 minutes when Mutyaba Travis skipped past a couple of Kenya players with some neat footwork and laid the ball for Ouke Patrick to cross. Kenya goalkeeper misjudged the ball and missed it when he came out of his area to collect, Ogwal Devis of Uganda duly slotting the ball into the back of the net. Uganda kept pushing for more goals in the first half and saw Kyeyune Abasi hit the post. Five minutes from the end of the first half Uganda almost got a second when Ogwal Devis headed the ball in the penalty box but his effort was saved by the impressive Lwangu Alvin, rising majestically to tip the ball over the crossbar. Deep into the first half Uganda won a free kick on the edge of the penalty box. Mutyaba Travis stepped up to take it and sent a low driven shot towards the goal. Lwangu Alvin couldn’t do anything this time around as the ball went past him and ended at the back of the net, Uganda 2, Kenya 0.

Second half began with Uganda scoring two goals in quick successions, almost putting the game to bed. Kenya looked hopeless and who can blame them. The gap in physical difference between the Kenyans and the Ugandans was quite obvious. Kenya could barely get out of their own half, each time getting muscled off the ball. For the remainder of the second half it was all about damage control for the hurambee stars and the match ended 4-0. Uganda are the first team to win the inaugural CECAFA U-15 tournament. Temesghen Tesfai of Eritrea won best player of the tournament while Kenya’s impressive goalkeeper was named best goalkeeper, and Uganda’s striker Kyeyune Abasi won a trophy for most goals scored in the tournament.

At the end of the match coach Sagar Lakhani said in the context of the whole situation his team’s outing has been successful. Adding that they came into the tournament with three objectives -- to learn, to play attractive football and finally win. “We have achieved almost all. Today we couldn’t match our opponents physically but in terms of pure football played there was no difference,” said Sagar.

Coach Magerwa Jackson of Uganda, on his part, said his team played good attacking football and defended smartly throughout the tournament. “I am not surprised by the way they have performed,” he said.
When Coach Magerwa Jackson was asked whether his team was challenged throughout the tournament he replied there were moments when his team were put under pressure in some matches but the intelligence his players show in most of them exceeded his expectation.

In the early kickoff of the day it was Burundi who took on Rwanda for the 3rd place play-off. Surprise packages of this tournament Burundi took the lead through Igiraneza Adelard in the 6th minute, first half ending with Burundi in front. In the second half Burundi seemed to have run out of steam as they couldn’t continue with the same intensity. Rwanda kept asking questions at the Burundi defense and eight minutes from the end of normal time, the wasp got their break from Uwizeyimana Celestin. The Burundi players couldn’t believe their luck as most slumped to the floor. The match went into penalty kicks. Rwanda’s goalkeeper, Nshimiyimana Christian, the hero of the day, helped his nation secure 3rd place in the tournament.

This is a step in the right direction for the development of the sport in the region. Eritrea has hosted a successful tournament by all measures. However, as Ulric Mathiot, a FIFA instructor who helped kick start the grassroots program here in Eritrea and Somalia said, “The work has just begun.”