Asmara is currently hosting the inaugural CECAFA u15 tournament in which 10 countries from the Horn and East Africa are taking part.
Match day 6 and 7 witnessed Tanzania, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya and hosts Eritrea play.
Match Day 6
Tanzania vs. South Sudan
Ethiopia vs. Rwanda
Wednesday match day 6 of the CECAFA U15 boys challenge cup pitted group B’s Tanzania against South Sudan. In the early proceedings Tanzania saw much of the ball. It looked clear from early on that South Sudan were going to stick to their defending tactics as they had done in their previous two matches. Keeping a defensive highline throughout the match against Tanzania. The thing about keeping a high line defense in football is that if not utilized properly, it can lead to constant break away from the opposition. For the first twenty minutes South Sudan looked properly drilled when it came to using the offside trap, successfully catching the Tanzania players offside on various occasions. However, the Tanzania players slowed down play and started passing the ball without rushing. In the 25th minute a through ball from Kamoga Daniel found winger Chasambi Ladaki who squared it to striker Kiambe Juma, which led to the first goal of the game. Tanzania lost their first match of the tournament to Uganda. Coming into this game, Tanzania were not only hoping to win the match but score as many as they could. Throughout the match they played with urgency, at times not even celebrating their goals, opting to restart play as quickly as possible. In the first half Tanzania added two more goals via Katuli Rabbin from the penalty spot and Fundumo Gaby.
South Sudan were now in danger of conceding as many as their near neighbors Sudan who conceded 6 against host nation Eritrea the previous day.
South Sudan were to suffer the same fate as their neighbors, Sudan, as Tanzania upped the ante in the second half and got three more goals from Fundumo Gaby, Katuli Rabbin and their impressive captain Chasambi Ladaki Juma.
The biggest headline of the day, however, was neither aboutTanzania’s big win nor was it anything related to football. As the South Sudan players were heading into the tunnel they were received by the Sudan national team; the beauty of that particular moment was that both set of players embraced each other. Another example of how football can play a pivotal role in sustaining peace in our region.
In the late kickoff of the day it was Ethiopia who took on Rwanda. Ethiopia were accorded the warmest of welcomes by spectators in both of their previous matches. The Walia Ibex looked better in their last match against South Sudan, earning a hard fought draw when they equalized deep down into injury time. In their third match against Tanzania they looked more confident on the ball. Tsegaye Eyueal, pulling the strings in the middle of the park, where, as the diminutive winger Muche Nahom was doing damage down the left hand side, his marker Ishimwe Moise found it hard to stick to him. This was Muche Nahom’s first start. One has to question why Coach Betiglu Befikadu didn’t start him in the previous two matches. The number 14 was causing all types of havoc in the left wing, nutmeging Rwanda’s Mwizerwa Eric in one occasion as Coach Rwasamanzi Yves looked visibly annoyed and animated in the touchline. He was not happy that his side weren’t closing down the opposition fast enough. With Ethiopia on top of things, Rwanda somehow managed to open the score in the 34th minute when Iradukunda Siradji found himself in the edge of the Ethiopia penalty box with the ball and no body marking him, he took his time to curl the ball into the left hand corner of the goal. Goalkeeper Derese Kidus could do nothing but stare as the ball made its way into the back of the net. That took the snuff out of the Ethiopian players as Rwanda went on to add two more goals in quick successions, first from Iradukunda Pacifique and then via their captain, Hoziyana Kenedy.
In the first half, Ethiopia played beautiful football by all measures, yet they couldn’t make count their dominant display of possession football or their ability to dribble past their markers into goals. Rwanda proved their superiority to the one aspect of football that matters the most, scoring goals. Ethiopia under 15 national football team might have made history by becoming the first Ethiopian national side to have played in Eritrea in nearly two decades but with this loss and only one match left to play, they are out of the competition. Ethiopia should be proud of themselves for the kind of football they played during this tournament. With the right care and attention the current crop of u15 side have the potential to be good football players.
Somalia vs. Sudan
Eritrea vs. Kenya
S o m a l i a p l a y e d a g a i n s t Sudan in match day 7. Both teams sat in the bottom of their group after having lost both of their last two matches. This match was a chance for both teams to get their first points of the tournament. Sudan lost their first two matches to Kenya and Eritrea respectively, conceding 10 goals in the process, while Somalia was defeated 3-1 by Kenya and 2-1 by Burundi. During the first 40 minutes of the 1st half, Somalia in their blue kit looked the far better side of the two, scoring first from Mahad Abduqadir then through Abdullahi Omar. Sudan, yet to score in this tournament, put on a rather abject performance throughout the match only testing the Somali goalkeeper Abdinasir Omar in the 80th minute when Sudan’s captain, Zekaria Ahmed, struck a free kick that was saved by the goalkeeper. With this loss, Sudan have booked their flight ticket back home with one match left to go.
The second and penultimate match of the day was between Eritrea and Kenya. Kenya who have been the standout performers in this tournament drew their last match against Burundi. Moments after the end of the game, Coach Sagar Lakhani said his team took the match lightly and they are going to need to be at their best if they were going to beat Eritrea. Eritrea came to this match on the back of their emphatic 6-0 win against neighbors Sudan. Their confidence riding high, the Red Sea camels dominated early play. Kenya looked bereft of any ideas on how to stop the ball or take it from the Eritreans. Stadium Asmara was packed from one end to the other. Home team, confident by the kind of football they were playing and cheered by the enthusiastic crowed, threatened the Kenya goal. It was unbelievable to see this was the same team that lost to Burundi in their opening match. The team in the field looked different and played with swagger. Left-footed Temesghen Tesfai, rightly called Messi, was proving t o b e hard to mark as he skipped past his marker Mugweru Isaac on multiple times. “Red Sea, Red Sea” shouted the crowd, obviously happy by what they were seeing. On the other hand, the Harramee stars found it hard to cope with Eritrea’s intensity. Ahmed Awad, who scored a hatrick in his last game, gave Kenya goal Keeper Lwangu Alvin a scare in the 20th minute when he disposed him off the ball in the penalty area only for a Kenya player to clear the resulting shot on goal. In the 25th minute Eritrea’s hard work on and off the ball was all to become undone when Kenya caught the Eritrea backline off guard after they quickly played an indirect free kick and set up Kavin Wangaya clear off on goal, Kavin rounding the goalkeeper to score the opening goal to the surprise of the home crowd. The home fans kept pushing the Red Sea camels. Eritrea were not going to be deterred as they continued to play their game. Ahmed Awad, Temesgen Tesfai and Esrom Rezene were giving their markers all kinds of headache. Halftime couldn’t have come soon enough for the Kenyans as they looked out of breath.
Eritrea started the second half lively as they looked to get the all-important equalizer. Coach Mekonen brought in the influential Natan Berhane in midfield. Eritrea added urgency to their play, Temesgen ‘Messi’ seeing his effort hit the woodwork. Eight minutes from the end of normal time, Eritrea equalized via the leading goal scorer of the tournament, Ahmed Awad, heading the ball into the net to the jubilation of the home fans. Ahmed Awad would go on to have another golden chance near the end of time as he saw his effort saved by the impressive Lwangu Alvin. As the minutes keep ticking to the end, Kenya were to have the final say deep into injury time, breaking down the right hand side as they found themselves one on one with the goal keeper, Mwaro Ibrahim finding himself at the end of a squared ball and with a clear shot on goal to an empty net.
The Eritrean Red Sea Camels gave Kenya, who in my opinion have so far been the standout performers in this tournament, a proper hideout. Kenya might have looked like seasoned professionals in their last three games but against Eritrea they seemed out of ideas on how to stop their opponents, at times resorting to wasting time and going down easily. While some decisions might have gone against Eritrea on the day, the way they played was the stuff of dreams. The final score suggested otherwise at the end of the game, but the Red Sea Camels left the stadium as heroes to the adulation of their supporters. To the many kids who were inside the stadium supporting them, they have left a lasting impression.