Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Litmus Test for Serengeti Boys

NATIONAL U-17 soccer team, Serengeti Boys, clash with Congo Brazzaville in the first leg of the third and final round of the 2013 African Nations Cup (AFCON) Qualifiers at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam on Sunday.

Serengeti Boys will be playing their Central African opponents for the first time ever in the continental competition and victory will be crucial to the Tanzanians' attempts to secure their maiden presence in the finals.

The Tanzanians hardly drained a sweat on their way to the third round, in which the team's opponents in both first and second round of the qualifiers pulled out for various reasons. In the first leg of the qualifiers, Serengeti Boys were scheduled to play Kenya in September, this year, but the latter pulled out.

And in the second leg, it was again the same story when Serengeti Boys were expected to meet Egypt, last month, but then the latter opted out of the stage and that left Tanzania easily progress to the third and final round. Today's match will hardly be a plain sailing for Serengeti Boys given that they are up against a formidable opponent that has an impressive record in the tournament.

Congo Brazzaville finished third in the last year's U-17 AFCON finals held in Kigali, Rwanda, after overcoming the mighty Cote d' Ivoire 2-1 in the third place play off. Much as Serengeti Boys have little knowledge of their third round opponents, chalking up a win in today's match is what the Tanzanians will need to boost their morale ahead of the return leg duel penned for November 30-December 2, this year in Brazzaville.

The Tanzanian youngsters will enter the National Stadium with plenty of confidence considering that they have enjoyed tremendous support from domestic soccer stakeholders ahead of the game.

TFF recently formed a special committee to oversee the team's preparations for the qualifiers and the committee, among others, has already raised about 35m/- to ensure the team performs well in both matches.

Serengeti Boys had previously qualified for the final of the U-17 AFCON tournament in 2005 only to be disqualified for fielding an overage player in the qualifying stages. The Tanzanians had cruised to victory over Rwanda and Zambia in the first and second rounds of the qualifiers before overcoming Zimbabwe in the last round of the qualifiers to eventually grab a ticket to the finals.

But Zimbabwe then protested against Tanzania's victory saying the latter had fielded an overage player and the continental soccer governing body kicked Tanzania out of the finals after confirming Zimbabwe's claims.

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