Rwanda faces Mali in AYC opener
The African Youth Championship is scheduled to take place from January, 18 to February,1 2009. The matches will be held in Kigali’s newly renovated Amahoro National Stadium and the capital suburb’s Regional Stadium, Nyamirambo.
It was a spectacular evening at the Caf African Youth Championship draw yesterday at Prime Holding premises in Kigali, Rwanda.
According to the draw conducted by Caf’s Essam Mohammed, Rwanda, Mali, Cameroon and Ghana were placed in Group A while Nigeria, Egypt South Africa and Ivory Coast will be squaring it out in Group B.
Approximately 100 guests attended the event, including Culture and Sports Minister Joseph Habineza, Cocan chairman and Ferwafa president Brig. Gen. John Bosco Kazura, the Egyptian Ambassador to Rwanda, representatives of the participating teams and leading football figures in the country.
Hosts Rwanda, which was seeded for the draw, will open the competition against Mali at Amahoro stadium on January 18, 2009 before another cracker sees Ghana taking on arch rivals Cameroon. It will be the first time a tournament of such magnitude will be played in the Cecafa region.
Chairman of the Local Organising Committee and Ferwafa president Kazura, made the inaugural address, saying he was excited about the tournament as it would be the culmination of a long process and “Rwanda’s proudest moment as it takes its place in the development of African football.
Kazura added that Rwanda was determined to ensure that the championship was a success.
“As Africans we are proud and honoured to host a tournament featuring African countries and I hope we will all have a good tournament.” Kazura said.
Nigeria, Egypt and Ghana are three biggest teams with a long history having won the championship 10 times between them with Nigeria topping the all –time winners with 5 titles.
Cameroon has just won it once in 1995. With the hosts and the crowd-pulling Cameroon pitted against each other, Group A offers drama and excitement aplenty.
The Cameroon cubs, with their stylish play and established stars, will be expected to ignite the championship. But in a group this tough, anything can happen as Ghana and Mali can’t be underestimated.
Nigeria will want to prove to everyone that they are still the team that conquered the world’s junior football in the past.
Rwanda and Nigeria were seeded top teams on the basis of Rwanda being the host nation while Nigeria has won many African youth championship titles following Congo Brazzaville’s failure to qualify for next year’s edition despite winning the 2007 edition in Brazzaville.
French-based Sport Five which owns the broadcasting of the two-week long tournament is set to show the games live. The Caf African Youth Championship is a major international football competition for Caf nations, played by under-20 years-old players.
The Caf U-20 African Championship is held every two years with the top 4 teams qualifying for the Fifa World Youth Championship.
Until 1989 the African representatives were determined purely on a qualifying basis with no African title on the line. Since 1991 there has been a qualifying stage followed by a final tournament played by 8 teams in a chosen country.