Absolutely proud: CS Ababu revels in success of inaugural Talanta Hela U19 tourney

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 13 – Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba has said he is extremely proud to have seen the successful end to the inaugural edition of the Talanta Hela Under-19 Football Tournament, which climaxed on Jamhuri Day with Homabay and Busia Counties being crowned inaugural winners.

What started as a dream and a plan has now been actualized, with 16 counties taking part in the national finals that were staged at the Nyayo National Stadium.

“I am extremely more than proud. I am extremely happy for the young people who have had the opportunity to come showcase their talents at the grandest stage nationally. They have played infront of the people of Kenya and watched by the President,” CS Ababu told Capital Sports.

He added; “More importantly, they have been watched by top scouts. We have invited the top leadership from the Nastic Soccer Academy in Spain and they have been here for two days. We have an arrangement on how we can get more young people to join the Academy.”

Sports CS Ababu Namwambva with president William Ruto as he arrived at the Nyayo National Stadium. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu
Sports CS Ababu Namwambva with president William Ruto as he arrived at the Nyayo National Stadium. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

The Talanta Hela U19 tournament, started in August from the Ward level, building on to the regional finals where the country was divided into 12.

Winners of each region qualified for the nationals, and were joined by four more who qualified from the play-off tournament staged in Nyeri.

The nationals took 10 days, with matches staged across three venues; Nyayo National Stadium, Jamhuri Grounds and the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani.

“It has been amazing to see teams like Wajir, Lamu… places where people imagine you can’t find talent. We have seen incredible talent from those places.”

“We have done it. We have demonstrated that if you are deliberate, intentional and structured, you can create a pipeline of talent. This is how Morocco made it to the semi-finals of the World Cup, by investing in youth football and grassroots. They have proven that it can be done,” the Cabinet Secretary added.

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Sports CS Ababu Namwamba greeting Busia County players before the final at teh Talanta Hela U19 national finals. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Meanwhile, CS Ababu believes the tournament will have a crucial role to play in the development and improvement of football in the country especially with Kenya hosting the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations alongside neighbors Uganda and Tanzania.

He says that giving talents from across the country an opportunity to be seen will expand the selection pool for national team coaches and give everyone an equal chance.

“This is huge for the future of football in the country. On Day One in office, I announced that for Kenya to get to the high table of global football, there is only one route; investing in youth and grassroot football, essentially from the bottom up. We designed this tournament to give a chance to every Kenyan child to be seen and express themselves,” noted Ababu.

He believes that the players scouted from the inaugural edition of the tournament as well as the talent exhibited by the Kenya U18 team that won silver at the CECAFA Championships are the right ingredients to have a strong Kenyan team for next year’s U20 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and in the long run, forming a cog of the team that will represent Kenya at the 2027 AFCON.

Sports CS Ababu Namwamba. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu
Sports CS Ababu Namwamba. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Meanwhile, he says with many lessons picked, next year’s edition will be bigger and better and will offer an even bigger pool of talent exposure.

“Next year we will run an even more improved fashion. It is all coming together nicely,” the CS noted.

Meanwhile, he has revealed that next year’s tournament will be run in collaboration with 50 academies, which will be set up before then to ensure that these talented players are channeled to a place where their craft can be taken to the next level.

“We have already done our mapping and we know where the academies will be and what exactly we want from them. We will run the tournament in partnership with them,” the CS revealed.

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