• Junior Wasps give Mali a stinging start
GASABO - It was all tears of joy and history in the making as the 16th African Youth Championship, Rwanda 2009 kicked off yesterday with a spectacular opening ceremony at Amahoro National Stadium, Kigali.
The sporting occasion was one never seen in Rwanda before, but what made it even more spectacular was the host nation’s 2-1 win over Mali in the opening match in front of a packed Stadium.
APR FC’s pair of Jean Baptiste Mugiraneza and Elias Uzamukunda were the heroes of the day as their goals in either half handed host nation Rwanda the win on her debut at the finals of the bi-annual continental championship.
Man of the match Mugiraneza gave Rwanda a deserved lead as early as the 5th minute but Mali were on level terms on the half hour mark when midfielder Sow Samba pounced on a loose ball for the equalizer.
But eight minutes into the second period, Uzamukunda was in the right place at the right time to net what proved to be the winner.
The win put Rwanda at the top of group A, two points better than both Ghana and Cameroon who drew 1-1 in the day’s second game. Mali is bottom with zero points.
Among the mammoth crowd was Rwanda’s First Lady Jeannette Kagame, Prime Minister Bernard Makuza, Caf boss Issa Hayatou, high ranking government and military officials among other dignitaries.
The magnificent occasion was transmitted live across the continent and so will the entire tournament as eight countries battle to become the 2009 Africa’s junior champions.
Rwanda becomes the only second country in the East and Central African region to organize this championship after Ethiopia in 2001.
The eight teams are drawn in two groups of four with the top two sides in each group progressing for the semifinals of the competition, being staged on Rwandan soil for the first time.
Group A has host nation Rwanda, Mali, Ghana, Cameroon while Nigeria are in group B together with Egypt, Ivory Coast and South Africa.
Among the eight teams, five of them including Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Cameroon and Ivory Coast are all past winners of the competition, which was created in 1979 by the Confederation of African Football, Caf with the aim of enhancing the quality football on the continent.
The African Youth Championship is the main international football competition for CAF nations, played by players under 20 years of age.
It is held every two years with the top 4 teams qualifying for the FIFA World Youth Championship. This year’s World Youth Championship will be staged in Egypt next September.