Senegal 2015 AYC: African Youths Go To ‘War’
WE are here again. It is that time of the year when youths from across Africa converge in one major footballing country to try to assert themselves as the future of the continent’s game.
The African Youth Championship, which features the best eight under-20 football playing nations, will begin tomorrow in the Senegalese capital of Dakar. The tournament, the 20th in the series, apart from giving the victorious team the toga of the best youth football nation in the continent, also conveys on the last four teams the right to represent Africa at the FIFA U-20 World Cup later in the year.
So, from tomorrow till March 22, connoisseurs of the African game will shift their attention from Niger Republic, venue of the just-concluded African Under-17 Championship, to Senegal, where the next Abedi Peles, Jay Jay Okochas, Samuel Eto’o Fils, Yaya Toures and other past greats of the African game will take their first steps to stardom.
This edition of the U-20 championship is expected to be exciting, as another generation of young African footballers would want to replicate the performance of their senior counterparts at the January/February African Nations Cup hosted by Equatorial Guinea.
Among the teams expected at the championship are the perennial champions, Flying Eagles of Nigeria, led by Coach Manu Garba, who has promised to use this competition to prove that the FIFA Under-17 World Cup he won with the Golden Eaglets was not a fluke. Interestingly, 70 per cent of the boys, who made Nigeria proud in the UAE 2013, are in Garba’s team to Senegal.
Nigeria will have their first feel of the competition on the opening day when they lock horns with Senegal, the host nation in the group opener of the championship.
The Flying Eagles, six times winners of the African championship, are expected to give a good account of themselves in Senegal. In fact, football-loving Nigerians expect the team to at least get to the semifinals, which would automatically win them the ticket to the U-20 World Cup billed for New Zealand later this year.
The Flying Eagles class of 2013, led by John Obuh, was third in the Algeria edition of the championship behind Ghana and champions, Egypt.
Interestingly, after watching the field that would confront his team in Senegal, Coach Garba believes that he has the squad to fly over all the opposition at the junior championship.
Speaking to The Guardian before the team departed Nigeria for Dakar, Flying Eagles’ Coach, Manu Garba and his assistant, Nduka Ugbade, are confident that the national U-20 team would put up a superlative performance at the African U-20 Championship slated to kick off in Senegal this weekend. Garba boasted that he has raised a formidable squad that is capable of surmounting any team in the youth championship.
As part of efforts to bring his players up to speed in Senegal, the former U-17 handler revealed that he had primed his boys to approach every game with all seriousness, stressing that they believed all the teams have equal opportunity to excel.
Aware that the Eagles would play their opening group game against the host nation on Sunday, Garba assured Nigerians that the technical crew had strategies to pick the three points in the group B opener.
Garba disclosed that his mission in Senegal is to win the African championship and forge ahead to have a successful outing in the World Cup.
“The Flying Eagles know that the African Championship is not a tea party. I have made my players understand that there are no more minnows in African football at any level. We are taking every game seriously. Playing against the host nation in the opening game of a championship is not easy, especially against a country that loves football. But I want to assure Nigerians that I have worked on my boys to remain technically focused and work as a team in every tie. With God on our side, we shall return with the trophy. All the boys need is prayers and support from Nigerians,” Manu said.
Also speaking on the team’s chances in Senegal, Ugbade said the Flying Eagles have shown in the tune up matches that they would go places.
The former Flying Eagles star said the hope to be among the four semifinalists at this tournament, which would automatically qualify them for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand later in the year.
Also speaking ahead of the championship, former Super Eagles assistant coach, Joe Erico, implored the Flying Eagles to go all out for victory in Senegal, saying that he believed Garba has assembled a quality team that will put smiles on the faces of Nigerian football lovers.
The eight teams taking part in the African U-20 Championship are Congo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, South Africa, Zambia, Nigeria and the host nation, Senegal. Interestingly, no North African team is involved in this year’s edition of the AYC.
Flying Eagles Team List
Gabar Manu – Head Coach
Nduka Ugbade -Assistant Coach
Musa Muhamed (Captain)
Abdullahi Ibrahim Alhassan Muazam
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