Kenya Under-15 football team is due to leave the country early Tuesday morning for Eritrea where the team will compete in Council for East and Central Africa (Cecafa) Under-15 Championship.
Kenya, which is in Group 'A' alongside Somalia, hosts Eritrea and Burundi, will begin its campaign on Friday against Somalia. Group 'B' has Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and South Sudan while Group 'C' has Tanzania, Sudan and Djibouti.
The top three teams from Group 'A' and 'B' will join the top two from Group 'C' in the quarter-finals slated for August 27 and 28. The final will be played on September 1.
The Junior Stars head coach Sagar Lakhani has said his boys are on a learning curve and that the tournament provides a good platform to test themselves against opponents from the region.
"We have played several friendly matches with teams at different levels and we feel confident that we have a good team. We are fit and excited to compete in Eritrea, and we are going to give it our best shot," Lakhani said after the team's final session at the Wadi Degla Academy in Runda, Nairobi.
"We really know nothing about our opponents but we are going to play our way - try and possess the ball as much as we can, attack and score goals. We will watch the teams, adjust and learn from them to make the necessary adjustments as the tournament progresses," he added.
"We are going to learn as much as we can in the tournament. We are shaping them for the future and therefore learning is very important. I also hope the boys will play exciting football and have a good time while doing it. They need to love these experiences - the more they enjoy and stay in the game the bigger the chance they will play with us at the highest level," Lakhani added.
Football Kenya Federation (FKF) has made its Centre of Excellence in Thome, Nairobi, the permanent base for the team. There, the players are put on a homeschooling programme with the long-term target of creating a team that can qualify for the 2026 World Cup.
"If we can have a group of guys who are training together regularly at a good level and compete regularly against good opponents, then learning and growth can take place. As long the boys learn and grow at this stage, we can achieve that," Lakhani said.
Team captain James Gachago is optimistic of good performance in Eritrea.
"We have learnt a lot in camp and the experience has been good. I am very happy with the way we are playing and we are very confident heading into the tournament. This is our first major tournament as a team, and it is important that we learn and correct our mistakes. This is putting us on the path to qualification for the World Cup and other big tournaments and I hope we win," Gachago said.
"We need to learn the tactical aspects of the game, playing under pressure, and how to build up play. This is a very good tournament to test our ability and to learn," he added.