The team that is representing Kenya at the COPA Coca-Cola U17 international tournament in Pretoria, South Africa has put a spirited fight despite the fact that they travelled to the camp with the players barely knowing each other’s name.
However, from the first day they entered the camp at St. Alban’s college, Coach Arthur Apiyo’s first assignment was to make the players feel at ease with him and amongst themselves. The result has been a one Kenyan team that the organizers of the COPA tournament has lauded as being the most organized and disciplined.
The results on the pitch have been even the more astounding with the Kenya U17 team beating both Uganda and Tanzania convincingly while also pulling off draws against Nigeria and Zambia. All these teams, unlike Kenya, had the merit of having trained together for at least two weeks before heading to the camp.
It’s been a team effort that has seen the team rise from the disappointment of losing 1-0 to Zimbabwe in the opening match to pinning down their opponents with possession-based football. Had they been just a wee bit clinical in front of goal, the Kenyans could have transformed their losses against Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi to a draw, at least.
One of the players who have stood tall in the team is Garissa-born Sadam Abdulahi. The Form 2 student at Garissa High School has been a brick wall in the Kenyan backline. His performance has not only caught the eye of the coach but even his fellow players who unanimously voted for him as Kenya’s player of the tournament.
Sadam will have his chance to shine for the COPA Coca-Cola All-Star team that will be made of the best players from the other 14 countries who are participating in the tournament.
“I’ll take my chance and play the best I know how,” said the soft-spoken Sadam who plays as a central defender. “The exposure has really been brilliant for me, almost surprising but I work hard everyday hoping that doors will open for me,” he added.
Sadam beat off competition from the team’s captain Haron Nyakha who put his all in the defensive midfield position. “He is a good pick, undoubtedly our best player bar none and we will be supporting him all the way,” said the diminutive Nyakha.
Another player who was quick to laud Sadam was speeder winger Geoffrey Alwala. “He is the most improved player in the team, very humble and fights for the team and for the Kenyan name,” he noted.
The COPA Coca-Cola All-Star team will train together on Thursday before taking on Supersport United U19 team on Friday.
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