National under 17 football team coach Michael Amenga is braced for a tough tournament as the team left the country yesterday for the Council of East and Central Africa Football Association-cum CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, in Dar Es Salaam Tanzania between August 13 and 27.
The team which has been in camp for almost two weeks left early for the tournament as all the participants in the tournament are expected to undergo Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan to ascertain their real ages before the regional competition come qualifier kicks off.
With Tanzania getting an automatic ticket to the continental competition by virtue of being the hosts, it means the region now only has one slot up for grabs and Kenya will need to win the competition to be certain of qualification, a feat which Amenga believes would be tedious as he goes to the competition without his best players.
“We are somehow disadvantaged. We are going into the competition without our best under 17 players, so we will just have to work with the available talent and hope for the best,” said Amenga.
The coach blamed Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA) and selected schools of not working hand in hand with the federation to release students to the national team, yet they were the core of the team.
“Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association should in future be flexible and allow our junior national teams have the players. Bulk of the team’s players come from the schools games and this time we are going to be disadvantaged because we don’t have our best players,” Amenga said.
He added: “We have also been hindered by the ongoing Norway Cup where the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) under 17 team has travelled to, to feature, they also have some of the best players who could have formed part of the national team.”
Kenya has been grouped together with Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Djibouti in Pool B of the competition, while Pool A has hosts and favourites Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia and Sudan.
Kenya kickoff their campaign against South Sudan in Chamazi, Dar es Salaam on Tuesday, before they face Djibouti in their second tie next Friday at the same venue, then they will play rivals Uganda in their third group match on Sunday, August 19. Their final group match will be against Ethiopia on August 22.
“I know our opponents very well. They have a slight advantage because they will be bringing their best talent, but we remain optimistic and focused for the tournament,” he said.