NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 8 – The Harambee Stars Under-17 side arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Wednesday ahead of the CECAFA Junior Championship which kicks off on Saturday.
The CECAFA Championship will also be used as a qualifier to the Nations Cup which will also be held in Tanzania, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) having decided to zone the qualifiers with each region producing two representatives.
With East Africa hosting the Championship, only the winner of the tournament will qualify or if Tanzania wins, the losing finalist will earn that ticket.
Kenya is eyeing that slot of qualifying for a continental championship for the first time.
“It is very possible because we have trained well for the past two and a half weeks and I feel that this team we have is able to compete for that slot. It is going to be tough though but we will do our best to ensure we get that ticket,” head coach Michael Amenga told Capital Sport before the team departed.
Kenya is in Pool B with South Sudan, Djibouti, Uganda and Ethiopia and will start their campaign next Tuesday against South Sudan. A top two finish will guarantee them a spot in the semi-finals.
“It is a very tough group because at this moment in football, there is no small or big team. Each team is capable of doing well. We will give our best in all the matches and treat every one of them as a final,” the tactician further added.
Kenya finished fourth in last year’s tournament played in Burundi after losing 4-1 to Uganda in the play off. They had won 4-0 against Burundi, drawn 0-0 with Ethiopia and lost 1-0 to Somalia in their group matches.
They went on to lose 2-1 to eventual champions Tanzania in the semis. This year, Amenga believes he has a stronger team hence a bigger chance of making it to the final.
However, he is worried with the unavailability of several dependable players who were held on to by their schools due to last week’s Kenya Secondary School Sports Association (KSSSA) games which ended in Eldoret.
“We tried to ask them for some players even during the games to come for the MRI and registration but they could not release them. I have almost eight players from schools who I could not get and it is such a pity. We also have three players who are in Norway with MYSA (Mathare Youth Sports Association),” lamented the coach.
He added; “I would like to ask the KSSSA if they can agree to work closely with the federation to ensure that we have access to these players for such competitions in future. Always as Kenya, we want to field the strongest team.”
Kenya has never played in the continental championship and with them coming closer to home in Tanzania, there will be motivation enough for them to fight for the lone ticket.