While the 2010 CECAFA games, which was hosted by Eritrea, has a memorable place in every Eritrean soccer aficionados and the CECAFA organization, the country has a chance to do it again hosting the historical event of the CECAFA under 15 games which is being hosted for the first time in Africa. Ten African countries are taking part in the u-15 Peace and Development Cup. The competition aims to develop African soccer players from a young age by providing them opportunities to compete and grow. The u-15 Peace and Development Cup competitions began on 16th July and will go on until the 25th of July.We talked to Issaias Abraham, President of the Eritrean Football Federation, Mr. Nicolas Musenye, General Secretary of CECAFA, and Ms. Doris Petra, Chairperson of the CECAFA organizing committee, regarding the u-15 competitions.
Mr. Nicolas Musenye, General Secretary of CECAFA
- Welcome back, Mr. Musenye. Why did CECAFA choose Eritrea to host this game?
First and foremost, I would like to start by commending the Eritrean artists and people for having such an opening. I like the formation of the cultural troupes and I would like to say that Eritreans are naturally artists and they do everything in perfection. I want to praise the people and the government and all the parties that have engaged themselves in this event.
To answer your question, Eritrea managed to host a great game during the 2010 CECAFA. It was a good and vivid competition which everyone was thrilled about. It was the best competition CECAFA had. Besides, it has been almost ten years without Eritrea hosting international games. This was one of the reasons to have the game here, but, most of all, what motivated the CECAFA general assembly was the tireless works both the Eritrean President and the Ethiopian Prime Minster are doing to stabilize the region which made it necessary to make this competition take place here. We want to do our part in promoting peace through sports. That handshake between the President of Eritrea and Prime Minister of Ethiopia changed the perspectives in the region. Peace in the Horn of Africa means peace in all of Africa and we brought the power of football to help the two leaders to promote peace.
Also, our objective of this competition is to develop football at the grassroots. We are glad that we are the first region to organize u-15 games. You can only guarantee the bright future of those talented young players by monitoring them at their young age. If these are maintained, we can create a skillful team that will be one of the best teams in the region. All the players are very exciting; they are all passionate and talented. We agreed that as a region we develop our football at the grass root level which will help us to identify their attitudes and skills.
- What is the kind of experience the players would gain out of this event?
Football brings people together. All the players here are going to connect and they will make friends, which is the most important thing. They are going to be able to build friendships that will go on very far. And some of them haven’t had the opportunity to travel. This is the first time they are travelling which is good for them to see places and share cultures between them.
- Any last few words, Mr. Musenye
I am glad that I am here. This is only the beginning of the development of our football as a region. I want to applaud the people of Eritrea and, especially, the President of Eritrea for engaging fully with the rest of the region to organize this completion. I want to thank him. I want to thank the government of Eritrea for all the facilities and security they have provided us to make us comfortable and enjoy our football here in Eritrea.
Issaias Abraham, President of the Eritrean Football Federation
- What was the preparation the EFF carried out to host this event, Mr. Issaias?
Although we weren’t sure when it was going to be hosted, as soon as we found out that the countries agreed to take part in this game, we took no time to prepare. We were able to form the u-15 national team at a short notice. Of course, the team had a short time to train and prepare which is one of the reasons we weren’t able to win the game at the official opening ceremony. Nonetheless, considering the amount of time the players had to prepare they performed beyond our expectation. You can see how much potential they all have. Other than that, the EFF alongside the government worked hard to host this peace and development cup competitions and I believe it started out great and hope it will continue to be so till the end.
- Would you please care to say something about the game between Eritrea and Burundi, during the official opening ceremony?
It was a competitive game. The national team has lost many shots which could have been successful goals. The technical and tactical skills of the players were admirable. Of course there were few mistakes but, hopefully, they will be fixed at the next game.
Till now, we haven’t really had that many underage games which again were the reason for our players to be challenged. Most of the countries that are participating here have the experience of numerous competitions, locally and internationally. This is something that we want to work on in the future. This is a kind of event that we are just being introduced to. In any case, this game has shown us that we can be better if we manage to hold regular competitions.
- Being the first of its kind in Africa, what does hosting this game mean for Eritrea?
This is a historic moment for Eritrea. CECAFA is working to develop young African players by providing them such opportunities. Eritrea managed to have a memorable CECAFA games in 2010 and now is a time to do it again. Not only can we share the Eritrean heritage through historical buildings and friendly people but through sports as well.
Ms. Doris Petra, Chairperson of the CECAFA organizing committee
- It is your first time in Eritrea, Ms. Doris; how did you find it?
I love Eritrea. I love everything about it, the people, weather and climate. We are all very comfortable and I would like to thank the EFF for the reception that they offered us.
- How were the games you have watched so far?
They were explosive games, all of them. The players are young but passionate and skillful. They showed great techniques and their speed is amazing. They play excellent and they never waste time. They are in the field to play and they play their hearts out. This is the reason why these kinds of games should take place continuously because they are the stage where those players get to grow and develop to become great players.
- What do you expect from the u-15 games?
As I said before, this is how we develop and nurture these young players. They should be provided with numerous activities just like this. It is our hope that all the federations will keep these players; their standards and their talents are beyond expectations. We hope that the federations and all the respected governments will support the federations to develop these boys further so that they could play internationally.