The story was written a thousand miles from home, but its echo was resonating throughout Africa, with highest frequency in Bamako, the Malian capital, where thousands took to the streets despite being in the wee hours of the night.
This reflects no doubt the historic and unprecedented nature of what had happened with the qualification of the national U-17 team to the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup underway in Chile.
A first for a Malian side, which made history on 1 March 2015 in Niamey, Niger, by being crowned African champions for the first time.
It is in the fervour and joy of the celebration of the semi-final win against Belgium, the Malian fans discovered the identity of their opponent for the final.
This will be Nigeria, defending champions and record winners in the history of the competition with four titles, who beat Mexico 4-2 in the other semi-final, to set up an all-African final, narrowly missed during the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand last June.
It is in this regard that CAF President Issa Hayatou on the morning of Friday, 6 November 2015 paid glowing tribute to the two teams, Mali and Nigeria on their impressive performances at the tournament.
“There are times when words cannot express the feeling, and I think this is one of such moments. On my behalf, and that of the CAF Executive Committee, I congratulate the young players from Mali and Nigeria who have offered us moments of indescribable joy”, said Issa Hayatou, who has been carefully observing the proceedings of the tournament.
“The results and performances of the two teams in the competition have left, in the opinion of many, much to be desired. But we had to realize the promise of the flowers and the young did so masterfully for the happiness of all the great African football family and the continent.
“I am pleased that these results are obtained with essentially local technical persons, a testament to the quality and potential of African coaches. This reinforces the densification of our licensing program for coaches and multiplying opportunities for capacity building of African coaches,” assured Hayatou, also currently Acting FIFA President.
For the final, Hayatou wants the Mali and Nigeria to continue to show the world “their technical skills and strength of character” that they have been recognised with.[CAF]
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