Football: Kenya meet Ethiopia in Copa opener

St Anthony's defender Salim Badi (left) and goalkeeper Issa Emuria in this year's national school games in Eldoret. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]
Kenyan girls take on Zimbabweans

Mayoyo banks on experience and home support to spur his charges to victory.

Kenya will be seeking a perfect start when they launch their Copa Coca-Cola Under-16 Africa Cup of Nations title quest today at Nakuru High School. 

The Kenyan boys will face off with Ethiopia in Group A, while girls will clash with Zimbabwe in their opening matches.

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Kenya boys' team coach Peter Mayoyo said they will settle for nothing less than victory against Ethiopia.

"Victory is the best way to start any competition and the boys are ready to give a good account of themselves. They know they are representing the country and are determined to make Kenya proud," Mayoyo said. 

He added that they will capitalise on home support and the experience some of his players have gained in previous events.

"We have everything we need to excel in this tournament. The entire nation is behind us and the boys are inspired to give their best. Most of them are also not new to international competitions and that is a plus," said Mayoyo.

Mayoyo will be banking on the services of Isaiah Abwal, Ken Mwendwa, who both featured in last year's Global Copa Coca-Cola tournament in South Africa as part of the East Africa team.

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Abwal was the event's top scorer while Mwendwa was voted this year's national Secondary Schools Under-16 Most Valuable Player in July. 

Christopher Raila will lead in defence to ensure goalkeeper Issa Emuria is not frequently troubled.

Issa Lumumba is expected to star in midfield whereas Jacob Onyango will lead in hunting for goals.

Captain Cedric Muchina said they were looking for a memorable start in the continental tournament.

"We want to start well because victory in the opening match is a step into the knockout stage. We have trained well. We have full support and we are motivated to give our best," Muchina said. 

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Apart from Mwendwa and Abwal, Mayoyo said most of other players know what to expect in the competition because they played in the Copa global event as primary school pupils.

In the girls' contest, Kenya will tackle Zimbabwe in the only preliminary match.

In other boys' matches, Nigeria will take on Zambia in Group B, while Uganda meet Malawi in Group C.

Angola will clash with South Africa in Group B in the last match of the day.

Copa Coca-ColaAfrica Cup of Nations