Barry Silah @obel_barry
Over 50 goals were scored in a festival of high stakes football, inaugural Copa Coca Cola Africa Cup lived up to its billing as curtains came down on Saturday at Afraha Stadium, Nakuru County.
The twelve teams competing in the Under 16 Continental Championship gave as much as they gave. At the end of the day, the hosts Kenya represented by national schools football champions; St Anthony’s High School and Moi Girls, Nangili Girls gave the home crowd something worthy of pride and cheer after their exploits against Nigeria and Zimbabwe respectively
During the week-long tournament, the Kenyans showed intent right from Game One with St Antony’s who met Ethiopia, Botswana, Uganda, Zambia and Nigeria notching 16 goals and conceding only once. Among their impressive results was the day one 11-1 demolition of Ethiopia in a one-sided match.
Peter Mayoyo’s Kitale-based youngsters were catchy and daring in their brand of football with players like Wisdom Nahya, Lucas Maina and skipper Cedric Muchina shining and at the same time winning plaudits.
Top scorer and golden boot winner Jacob Onyango who netted five goals alongside the attack trio of Issah Rashid, Kennedy Mwendwa and Isaiah Abwal stood tall with their stylish football as goalkeeper Isah Emuria went home with the golden glove after a splendid display across the tournament.
The final might have just been won on post-match penalties for the boys after edging out Nigeria 3-2 through spot-kicks but the overall display in the duel was epic.
Nigeria as much as they received with tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP) Jerry Omeke having a standout performance in the middle of the pack.
Their discipline and industry led them to attract fans as well especially since their captain Moses Aluku led from the front on goal with some sublime saves plus exceptional organisational skills to keep his team going.
Other notable foreigners who stood out according to pundits were Zambia’s towering holding midfielder Benny Kalombo, Nigerian attacker Gift Williams, winger Lethshwenyo Oronya of Botswana and Ugandan creative midfielder Shafut Lulalo. In the girls’ tournament, who had two matches against Zimbabwe, won 3-0 in aggregate in a show of might.
The two teams were the only ladies teams in the inaugural tournament with the Kenyan side getting the better of their opponents given their physical ability and pace upfront even though midfielder Immaculate Zulu won the Most Valuable Player award according to selectors vote.
Plans are already afoot by the organisers and sponsors to have additional girls teams in the Championship in the coming years alongside creation of an Africa 11 to compete in international Copa events.