Why we should take good care of junior teams

Aldrine Kibet (right) on his way to Kisumu for the CECAFA U18 games. [FKF]

The Council of East and Central Africa Football Association (Cecafa) Under-18 championships kick off today in Kisumu, and Kenya hopes to make a mark.

The Kenyan team named early this week is made up of mainly school boys including Aldrine Kibet, the Most Valuable Player at the last national school games.

Kibet and two of his teammates at St Anthony’s Amos Wanjala and Alvin Kasavuli, who won the national title, have just jetted back from Spain where they were picked by a number of clubs who took them through trials.

We congratulate the national team coach for not only picking the outstanding trio, but for also not basing the selection in Nairobi County and including talent from across the country.

While Kenyan fans will be cheering their team on in Kisumu County, many will ask what is the fate of this team after the regional competition.

It is possible the team will go all the way to the final and even lift the trophy, but as has been the norm, many will forget about the team and start afresh once we need teams for Under-20 and even Under-23 who should be playing in the Olympic qualifiers.

This is a lesson we never learn. We are always happy to pick a team once the competition is around the corner and after the tournament, we forget the youngsters who did duty for the national teams.

This does not only happen in football, and it is a disease that cuts cross all sports disciplines. The Under-18 team that will be playing in Cecafa tournament from today is a good side made up of talented youngsters.

If we do not take good care of them we will continue cursing Harambee Stars when they fail on the international stage.

The Football Kenya Federation should maintain this team for other higher-age competitions like the Under-20, something that we have not done well.

Kibet and his teammates are the players we expect to fit in the shoes of Michael Olunga and others when Harambee Stars play in the qualifiers for the next Africa Cup of Nations and the 2030 World Cup.

That will only happen if we take care of the team after the tournament they are playing in now and not wait for another Under-20 tournament and start from scratch. All federations should nurture their junior teams for success with the senior teams. We wish the Under-18 team in Cecafa all the best and hope to see them playing for Harambee Stars in the next few years.

Great sporting nations have thriving teams in various age levels and only keep replenishing the senior teams with youngsters from the ‘value chain’. This is something all sports federations in Kenya can adopt and even perfect. Besides nurturing raw talent, such a system will ensure no talented youngster wastes away.  

By Ochieng Oyugi 12 mins ago
Was it false start to Omanyala's season at Kip Keino Classic meet?
By AFP 22 hrs ago
'Back to business' Arsenal grind out Wolves win to go top
Mashemeji Derby: Bring it on! Ingwe dare rivals K'Ogalo
Kenyan stars impress at Kip Keino Classic