The 2023 African Cup of Nations U17 Championship is set to kick off tomorrow in Algeria, with 12 nations vying for the title.
Among them are Somalia and South Sudan, who will be making their debut appearances at the tournament representing the CECAFA Region in Eastern Africa.
The participating teams include hosts Algeria, as well as Morocco, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, Congo, South Africa, and Zambia.
The opening match of the Championship, will see hosts Algeria take on Somalia in Group A. The match is scheduled to take place on Saturday -tomorrow- at the Nelson Mandela Stadium, with kickoff set for 22:00hrs EAT.
The other teams in group A are Congo and Senegal, who will face off against each other on Sunday at the same venue, with kickoff set for 16:00hrs.
Uganda, a stronghold in the CECAFA region, will not be participating in this edition of the U17 Championship in Algeria after failing to qualify from the regionals last October.
The team suffered a shocking defeat to Somalia in the semifinals during the qualification tournament in Ethiopia, losing 8-7 in shootouts after finishing the match 1-1 in normal time.
As a result, Uganda missed out on the chance to secure one of the two tickets available to Algeria from the CECAFA region, with Somalia and South Sudan taking those spots.
Another notable absentee in the upcoming championship is Ghana, who failed to qualify after their U17 national team, the Black Starlets, suffered a defeat to Burkina Faso in the semifinals of the WAFU Zone B Cup of Nations.
However, Ghana remains the most successful team in the AFCONU17 history, having won six medals.
Also after a series of controversy, Morocco’s U17 team was allowed to participate following an agreement reached between FIFA president Gianni Infantino, CAF president Dr Patrice Mostepe, and Morocco’s FA president Fouzi Lekjaa.
Morocco is pooled in Group B alongside Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia.
Meanwhile, Group B’s Nigeria and Zambia will be looking to make a winning start to their campaign as they take on each other on Sunday at the Mohamed-Hamlaoui Stadium.
The match is scheduled to start at 19:00hrs. Later on Sunday, Morocco will be looking to get off to a good start against South Africa, with the match set to kick off at 22:00hrs.
Somalia and South Sudan are set to make their debut on the African football stage, and have the opportunity to cause some upsets as they take on some of the top football teams on the continent.