FINALLY the day has come as the eagerly awaited Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals open today at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
All eight nations have already arrived in Dar es Salaam, alias the ‘Heaven of Peace’ ready for the twoweek tournament.
In fact, the city is buzzing ahead of today’s kick off because this is the first time for the country to host the tournament of such stature.
The grand opening ceremony to be graced by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa will see hosts Serengeti Boys launching their road to Brazil World Cup campaign against mighty Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets at the National Stadium.
Serengeti Boys, who pitched training camp in Kigali, Rwanda after taking part in an Invitational tournament last week, are already back in Dar es Salaam, ready for their today’s opening game.
The Boys under the tutelage of Oscar Mirambo are pooled in group A alongside Nigeria, Angola and Uganda. Coach Mirambo has declared his charges readiness for the finals, promising to fly high Tanzania flag in the prestigious event.
Serengeti Boys top striker Kevin John, who sustained injury in Kigali, has been declared fit for the tournament and he has also insisted that he is in good shape to help the team fire from all cylinders.
The team’s goalkeeper’s coach, Peter Manyika said basing on the kind of drills the team went through for the past few months they will emerge victorious today.
He said the players are charged up and raring to go head on against Nigeria in the match set to kick off at 2pm.
Manyika called on fans to turn up in big numbers to cheer up the home team. Golden Eaglets, Assistant Coach, Nduka Ugbade, is positive on the chances of the team claiming a third U-17 AFCON title.
“The truth is that the U-17 AFCON is very competitive because of the amount of effort that is concentrated upon it by most countries,” Ugbade, who was also an assistant to Garba when Nigeria won the U-20 AFCON four years ago in Senegal told CAFOnline.com.
“Teams from Africa can compete favourably well at the FIFA World Cup because the intensity of the game at this level on the continent is very high and that is why the Nigerian team over the years is difficult to beat, due to strength, skills and mental speed.”
Ugbade also states that CAF has raised the bar for the U-17 AFCON with recently introduced regional tournaments to determine eventual qualifiers for the biennial continental competition.
“I think the U-17 AFCON has taken a new dimension because you must have competed at the highest level to earn the zonal ticket and it makes the competition tougher,” he explained.
Director of Sports in the Ministry of information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Yusuf Singo said all necessary preparations for the finals to take off are complete. He said safety and security will be of high standard.
He said several Members of Parliament will attend the match, while at least 7,000 students will enter the venue free of charge to witness the encounter.
Meanwhile, Rahel Pallangyo reports that ‘Yabaridi Band’ were awarded 10m/- after emerging winners of contest to find a special song for the opening of the Under- 17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals, kicking off today.
The contest was organised by Radio Tanzania. Speaking after presenting a dummy cheque to the winners, Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Harrison Mwakyembe praised the band of two based in Chanika.
He said the song has all the indigenous ingredients. The song is titled ‘Shangilia Serengeti Boys’ “I also take this opportunity to appreciate the efforts made by Radio Tanzania for initiating this contest and I believe the song will inspire Serengeti Boys to perform well in the finals,” he said.