Hosts have their work cut out as they face off with 11 other nations for continental glory.
Kenya begin their quest for the Copa Coca-Cola Under-16 Africa Cup against Zimbabwe in Group A when the 2019 championship gets underway today at M-pesa Foundation Academy, Thika.
National champions Serani Secondary School will be looking to successfully defend the title won by St Anthony’s Boys Kitale in the inaugural event held last year in Nakuru.
The Kenyan boys have their work cut out as they face off with 11 other nations for continental glory.
Led by captain Hamisi Hamisi, Serani will be seeking a perfect start and seal a place in the quarter-finals. They take on Zimbabwe in the opening match of the championship before tackling Mozambique later in their last Group A match.
A confident Hamisi said they had prepared well for the tournament and are ready for the challenge.
“We are focused on the troph. We worked hard to qualify for the tournament and have trained well since winning the national title. We are looking forward to a very successful tournament because I believe that all our efforts will come to fruition,” Hamisi said.
He added that being a second side to represent the country in the continental event, they are keen on ensuring that Kenya retains the prestigious gong.
“Last year’s team set the bar quitehigh and we feel challenged to match their standards, but we are all determined to ensure the trophy remains home.”
Hamisi will lead Kenya’s onslaught in ensuring they keep the Zimbabwean defenders at bay.
He will lead a defence that also has Marcos Achola, Islam Abeid, Mohammed Aden and Fredrick Onyango.
Forwards Nassoro Mwinyi, Joel Elisha, Juma Shaban, Leonard Okuku and Ali Kamalu will be keen to score goals and ensure that Kenya is always ahead of their opponents.
Bilal Kibwana will marshal the midfield and together with Geofrey Baiba, Mbaruk Mohammed and Yassir Abdi will make sure the strikers have enough ball supply for more scoring chances.
Serani coach Isaac Wandera said the team has been in Thika since Monday and have acclimatised in readiness for the tough task ahead.
“We got here early enough and have had training sessions. The boys have had time to get used to the changes in weather and they are ready to compete.”
In other matches, South Africa will take on Tanzania in their opening Group B match before facing off with Zambia in their second later in the day.
Uganda will be looking to overcome Ethiopia and Namibia who they play in their Group C matches while Burkina Faso take on Botswana in Group D.
Botswana representatives will be looking to improve on last year’s third place finish.
Botswana beat Zambia 5-4 in third place play-offs to win bronze.
Uganda and South Africa ho were eliminated in the quarter-finals will be eying better performance.