The first of its kind under-15 football tournament officially kicked off in Asmara Eritrea yesterday with Host nation Eritrea taking on Burundi.
Participating national teams begun counting down the days to their first set of international matches as early as May when it was officially announced that Eritrea was going to host the tournament. During his May visit, General Secretary of CECAFA, Mr. Nicholas Musonye, said he was already looking forward to the tournament in clean and perfect Asmara.
It was at this summer’s AFCON nation’s cup in Egypt that this region for the first time in history witnessed the participation of four nations. It is on this remarkable progress then that CECAFA has chosen to kick start the first under- 15 tournament in Eritrea.
“These are our future stars. They are all here to get the experience they need”, said Petra Dorris, Head delegation of CECAFA, during a Press Conference held a day before the opening.
Football is a universal language that has helped for many years on abridging and creating friendship among different peoples and nations. Over the course of the entire tournament football will take center stage and prove once again that our gathering is another testament of how the people’s game can transcend borders and bring 10 nations of our East Africa together for a healthy competition of football.
In a time when Eritrea is working hard towards the development of football in the country and region, hosting two friendlies against South Sudan and Tanzania, this competition couldn’t have come at a better time.
It cannot be disputed that the future belongs to the youth. This rings true with football also. Nurturing talent from a young age has always been key to the success of any football club and nation. Look at Barcelona’s dominance and Spain’s world cup winning team of 2010, most were academy developed and nurtured players. However, there is no golden rule on how to develop young players into the football stars of tomorrow. This is not a bad thing, on the contrary, this allows for flexibility: what works for one, doesn’t always work for another. So too is important to engage with new ventures which come to market and to explore the unexplored, allowing for the application of their own models, culminating in a synthesis of the new and the old.
This tournament in a way is one form of youth development project. This is where they learn to be professionals. For young players, one goal is shared above all, to learn the foundations and master the technique in order to become world class football stars.
The first game of the tournament was between Kenya and Somalia at Asmara Stadium, saw four goals scored, perfect opening. The crowed were entertained as Kenya came out on top with a 3-1 convincing win over their opponents. According to Goal.com Kenya coach Sagar Lakhani stated that he was confident that his team was going to give a positive show. As expected his team dictated the game from the get go. With kevin Wangaya Injehu and Odera Joseph Munala pulling the string down the middle. Kenya never struggled throughout the game. Goals from Andreas Odhiambo Murage, James Gachango and Andrew Waswa Waliaulah gave Kenya a win on their first game. Somalia got their goal near the end of the game via a penalty kick.
After the game Kenya Coach Sagar said he was proud of the way his team played and added that his team is here to play possession football and that they showed it today. While Somalia coach Osei- Fosu Ignatius reminded that this was his team’s first international match and they improved immensely on the second half.
The first match was off to a good start. Kenya showed they mean business. Their team led by Sagar is one to look for during the tournament.
The second and official curtain raiser game saw hosts Eritrea take on Burundi. With the full stadium of fans supporting the hosts Eritrea, Burundi showed that they weren’t going to be rattled as they took the lead inside the second minute when Interiteka Florien outran his marker on the right hand side and slotted the ball past Eritrean goalkeeper Essey Tesfazghi, Eritrea captain Naod Habtom calling for calm as his team was getting ready to restart the game. This was not the start the host were hoping for. As the first half progressed, the Red Sea camels started to find their foot in the game albeit on the wide hand side. Burundi on the other hand seemed to have done their homework. It is evident that Eritrean clubs and national teams of various ages like to play the ball from the back and work their way up the field; it was the same with this one. However Burundi kept pressing Eritrea on their half of the field when they have possession and kept forcing them out wide. This left the Eritrean midfield stretched and their playmakers isolated, making it easier for the Burundi players to mark and intercept any ball played to the Eritrean midfielders.
Second half started with Eritrea on the front foot and with a different game plan. This time Eritrea’s game was direct with more emphasis on long balls and it wasn’t long before they tested Irankunda Osana, the Burundi goalkeeper. A long ball from the back found Eritrea’s forward Ahmed Awad one on one with the goalkeeper, while his first touch was excellent, his shot on goal was magnificently saved by the tall goal keeper. Barely had Burundi’s backline recovered from that scare, Ahmed Awad once again found himself in the Burundi penalty area, this time he made no mistake and buried his shot into the back of the net, Eritrea one, Burundi one.
However the age old saying that ‘you are at your most vulnerable when you have scored’ proved to be true when Burundi got a rather controversial free-kick at the edge of the penalty area and substitute Nduwimana Patrick sent one past the wall and into the net. Goalkeeper Essey Tesfasghi could have done much better. Towards the end the Eritrean players threatened the Burundi defence with no end result. Game ended 2-1 in favour of Burundi who were the more clinical in front of goal than their counterparts.
The football displayed during both matches was explosive and high quality. Kenya showed their experience and professionalism with a convincing 3-1 win over Somalia, while host nation Eritrea were left to rue their missed chances in front of goal against Burundi.
The tournament will continue later today with Uganda taking on Ethiopia in the early kick-off while Rwanda takes on South Sudan later on.