The soccer tournament is for players under the age of 20 and this year it is scheduled to be held in Rwanda from 18 January to 1 February 2009.
The 8 participating teams this year include Mali, Cameroon, Ghana and Rwanda forming Group A and South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Cote d’Ivoire forming Group B.These players were selected after the Preliminary Round first leg matches held from 18 April to 20 April 2008, and the Second Round second legs matches from 2 May to 4 May 2008, followed by First Round first leg matches held from 27 June to 29 June 2008, First Round second leg matches held from 11 July to 13 July 2009, and the Second Round first leg matches held from 26 September to 28 September 2008 and Second Round second legs matches from 11 October to 13 October.
The top two sides from each pool will advance to the semifinals, which will choose these four nations to qualify for the Under-20 FIFA World Cup, which will take place in Egypt in September 2009. If hosts Egypt reach the top 4 teams, then the team on 5th place will qualify for the Under-20 World Cup as the Egyptians naturally qualify to be part of the World Cup.
So far, Nigeria is in the lead, with an aggregate store of 7 against Sudan, which has an aggregate score of 2. Nigeria is listed as No. 1 on the Continental Rank with 5 winnings in the African Youth Championship. Second in line is Ghana with a continental rank of 2 in Africa National U20 soccer teams, out of the 20 teams participating in Africa National U20 Football teams. Ghana has also won African Youth Championship 2 times before, in 1993 and 1999. Next are Gambia, Mali and Congo, with continental ranks of 3, 4 and 5 respectively. Egypt, Zambia and Cameroon follow them next. Cote d’Ivoire is also a strong contender with an aggregate score of 5 but this competition for the qualification for the World Youth Championship will surely be a tough one.
The African Youth Championship started way back in 1979 and included teams / players like Algeria, Guinea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Egypt, Libya, Kenya, Morocco, Mauritius, Cameroon and Tunisia. The teams played to qualify for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup as well. 2007 African Youth Championship saw Congo as the final champion against Nigeria, beating them by 1-0. This year’s host (Rwanda) will have to fight like last years host (Congo) to win the title for themselves.
With less than a month to go for the African Youth Championship to be help in Rwanda, the excitement has already started building among thousands of soccer fans in Rwanda and worldwide.