With three days to go, Rwanda is all set to welcome Africa's elite youth teams to a two-week Under 17 Continental football championship, scheduled to kick off, this Saturday, at Amahoro stadium.
The tournament, which has attracted eight nations- defending champions, Gambia, Senegal, Egypt, Mali, Congo Brazzaville, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire and hosts Rwanda, will be held at Amahoro National Stadium, Kigali Regional Stadium (Nyamirambo) and Rubavu Stadium in the Western Province.
The Minister of Sports and Culture, Joseph Habineza said yesterday that preparations for the tournament had gone well as planned.
"Rwanda is ready to host Africa's best teams. Hotels that will host the teams and officials, stadiums, transport facilities and any other infrastructure required are all set,” Habineza said
Rwanda’s team, the Junior wasps, will open the tournament, playing Burkina Faso at Amahoro National stadium, before taking on Egypt on January 11 and Senegal on January 14.
The Junior Wasps coach, Richard Tardy, said that he was confident of his team’s performance in the tournament.
"We have prepared effectively over the past few months and I am now looking forward to a good performance. Our aim is to qualify for the World Cup in Mexico but winning the African title is among our ambitions," he said.
Egypt's assistant coach Tamer Abdel Hamid who spoke to The New Times after jetting in yesterday, said the qualifying for the World Cup was at the back of his mind.
"We are here to qualify for the World Cup finals. I wish Rwanda and Egypt reach the finals so that and both teams qualify for the World Cup finals,” he said, adding that his team is comfortable playing in Rwanda. “We feel at home being in Rwanda,”
The Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso teams are also already in the country, with Gambia and Congo Brazzaville expected mid this week.
Minister Habineza emphasized that hosting the youth tournament will promote unity on the continent and prepare for Africa’s success in future competitions
"This tournament is aimed at strengthening the solidarity among Africans. Let' support the youth teams because they are the future of Africa's success," Habineza said.
Early last year, eight teams were divided into two groups of four to battle for honours at the ninth edition of the biennial championships. Hosts Rwanda are in Group A alongside Burkina Faso, Senegal and Egypt whilst reigning champions, Gambia, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali are in Group B.
The four teams in each group will engage each other on a round-robin basis with the group winners and runners-up advancing to the semi finals with the eventual winners progressing to the final.
The semi finalists will represent the African continent in the FIFA U-17 World Cup scheduled for June 18- July 10, 2011 in Mexico.