Coach welcomes great expectations on TZ U17

Thursday March 21 2019

The national Under-17 soccer team players

The national Under-17 soccer team players attend a training session at the JMK Youth Park in Dar es Salaam yesterday, ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals. MICHAEL MATEMANGA 

By Thomas Ng’itu and Imani Makongoro @TheCitizenTz

Dar es Salaam. The national Under-17 soccer team, Serengeti Boys, should embrace their new-found status as one of the favourites for a major tournament, says team captain Morice Abraham.

Serengeti Boys are expected to leave for Doha, Qatar, this week for a two-week residential camp ahead of next month’s Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals.

In an interview with The Citizen yesterday, Abraham said they were in high spirits, looking forward to emerging new Afcon champions.

“We know the chance to compete in the Africa Cup of Nations as the hosts is an amazing opportunity and you don’t often get that in your career,” said Abraham.

“We will, therefore, try and make the most of it,” he added confidently. He said their target is win the Nations Cup title and secure a ticket for the Under-17 World Cup.

Team coach Oscar Mirambo had similar views, saying his boys have all it takes to win the title.

Meanwhile, Mirambo says his final squad for the Afcon finals will comprise 23 players.

His provisional squad consists of 33 players. “I will release some of the players after assessing them in friendly matches,” he said.

“I will give every player a chance so that I can assess them and decide which players I will be dropping from the team,” he added.

He said his decision to trim the squad was in line with the rules governing the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations finals.

Serengeti Boys have been zoned in Group A alongside Nigeria, Angola and Uganda in the preliminary round of the finals to be held at the National Stadium and Azam Complex.

The Golden Eaglets – as the Nigeria team is fondly referred to – will be making their ninth appearance in the biennial football fiesta.

In Group B, Guinea, Cameroon, Morocco and Senegal will battle for a semi-final place.

The top four teams of the tournament will qualify for the 2019 Fifa U17 World Cup in Peru as the Caf representatives.