Kenya believes hosts Eritrea will be under pressure to top their group in the regional Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) Under-15 tournament, which will take place from August 17 to September 1 in Asmara.
Head coach Sagar Lakhani said Kenya have selected the best talent as they seek to dominate the tournament, and has urged the players to go out and enjoy their game. The team jetted out on Tuesday afternoon.
“Fans can expect exciting football from Kenya. We are more than ready. We have put in a lot of effort in camp and it’s now time to translate it on the pitch. But we will not underrate any team because all players at this stage have no international experience,” said Lakhani on Tuesday in Nairobi.
CECAFA has confirmed that it is all systems go for the junior regional showpiece, the first one in Africa and sponsored by world football governing body FIFA, which will see 11 teams battle it out in a group and knockout format.
Kenya has been pooled in Group A alongside Somalia, Burundi and hosts Eritrea. Pool B has Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and South Sudan while Pool C will feature Tanzania, Sudan, and Djibouti.
Kenya’s Junior Stars will kick off their campaign on Saturday against Somalia, with the top three teams in Group A and B set to join the top two in Group C in the quarterfinals slated for August 27 and 28.
It will be the first time in nine years that Eritrea will host a regional football tournament.
Speaking in Nairobi, CECAFA secretary general Nicholas Musonye said the council has agreed in principal to lift a ban that has prevented the
tiny Eastern Africa side from competing in regional competitions since 2015.
“It is great news to announce that Eritrea confirmed their readiness to host CECAFA, and acknowledged the importance of the tournament to the people of Eritrea, and the whole region,” said Musonye.
Eritrea last hosted a CECAFA tournament in 2010, the Under-20 Challenge Cup. The new tournament, to be sponsored by the “FIFA Forward Program” initiative, will be the first under-15 competition to be staged in Africa.
According to Musonye, the tournament is to help the region prepare for the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers that start early next year.
The initiative to launch the tournament has been backed by Confederation of African Football president Ahmad Ahmad who attended the CECAFA meeting in Dar es Salaam last month.