Gambia set for 2019 Africa U-17 qualifiers in zone format

The Gambia’s Baby Scorpions are set to battle it out with Cape Verde, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone and defending champions Mali in the qualifiers for the 2019 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations, Gambia Sports can confirm.

The Baby Scorpions, who are pooled in WAFU zone A, will begin their qualifying campaign when it opens from September 9-18 in neighboring Senegal.

Gambia, one of four successful nations in the U-17 with two titles, will have to undergo mandatory MRI scan to determine whether players fall within the eligible age of the competition.

Gaffer Abdoulie Bojang is currently working with 60 players who have been invited for screening, before eventually trimming his squad to 30 ahead of the qualifiers in eight weeks’ time.

The Gambia has appeared in the U-17 four times, winning the championship twice in 2005, when it hosted it and in 2009 in Algeria.

The qualifiers for the U-17 will for the first time be played on a regional basis to determine the seven teams to join hosts Tanzania for next year’s final tournament.

A statement on CAF’s website read that: “The decision, one of the key elements among the resolutions of the first ever CAF African Football Symposium in July 2017 in Rabat (Morocco), was approved by the CAF Executive Committee.”

It added that: “The new format is expected to increase participation at the level of teams in the qualifiers, enhanced exposure and competitiveness by getting all involved. Since 1995, an average of 30 teams engaged in the qualifiers, representing about 54 per cent of the CAF membership.”

Each of the six Zonal Unions (CECAFA, COSAFA, UNAF, UNIFFAC, WAFU A, WAFU B) will organize their regional qualifiers featuring teams from the zone.

UEFA, through its UEFA ASSIST programme, is supporting the qualifiers from mid-July to September and will take off from Mauritius (COSAFA), through Equatorial Guinea (UNIFFAC), Tanzania (CECAFA), Tunisia (UNAF), Senegal (WAFU A) before terminating in Niger (WAFU B).

The winner of each zonal competition qualifies for the final tournament, with the exception of the zone of the previous winner, entitled to two slots. Since Mali won the title in 2017, WAFU A will qualify two teams.