Football: TotalEnergies U-23 Africa Cup of Nations |21 September 2022
Seychellois footballers attempt Olympics qualification dream
Qualifying for the Olympic Games is the dream of every individual athlete and sport team.
To achieve this dream, the level of difficulty varies from one sport to another, but for football, the Olympic Games qualifying process is one of the toughest.
To do so, a country like Seychelles has first to make it past three qualifying rounds to reach the group stage and then finish in one of the top three positions in the TotalEnergies Under-23 African Cup of Nations finals.
For some of the 39 registered African nations attempting to qualify for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, the qualification journey is one.
Seychelles is one of those countries starting the first round of the Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, also referred to as Morocco 2023. Morocco will host the final group stage of the competition in June 2023, hence the appellation.
The Seychelles Under-23 squad’s first round encounter is over two legs against Madagascar on a home and away basis with the first match taking place this weekend.
Seychelles will first play away on Saturday September 24 at 2pm Malagasy time at Kianja Barea Mahamasina Stadium in Antananarivo. The team will stay in Madagascar to play their home leg at the same venue at 3pm on Tuesday September 27.
Paying both games in Madagascar is a cost cutting decision taken by the Seychelles Football Federation as it will not incur extra expenses to travel to Mauritius to play the home leg as it has been the case since the non-certification of Stad Linite by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) for international matches.
As the Malagasy team will also cut down on the travel expenses, they have agreed to pay for Seychelles to stay in Madagascar for the return match.
However, while this arrangement may make economic sense, it could be disadvantageous for the Seychelles team who will have to face a hostile crowd and play at the same venue twice.
The Seychelles delegation will leave for Madagascar today, Wednesday September 21, and return on Tuesday September 29.
The 25-member delegation will be led by Seychelles Football Federation (SFF) chief executive Georges Bibi with Cliff Nolin as head coach, Damien Jean as manager and two other coaches Ted Esther (assistant) and Slim William (goalkeeper).
Should Seychelles clear the first hurdle and emerge winners on aggregate, they will earn a second-round clash against Gabon. The Gabonese will join the competition in the second round.
Coach Nolin said 14 of the 20 players are less than 20 years old and the remaining six 21 years of age.
He explained that the selection had to be well thought out taking into consideration that the players will still have to be under 23 should Seychelles make it to Morocco 2023.
There are also the upcoming Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers that we must start thinking about, he said.
He said that on paper the Malagasy team looked robust as seven of their players play in French leagues with other plying their trade in Luxemburg and Egypt.
“However, I do not think that this should scare us because if our boys remain focused and apply what we tell them, we will be worthy opponents,” he said.
Coach Nolin is familiar to coaching youth teams. He said that four years ago in that same competition, Seychelles played gallantly against Sudan losing only by an own goal in the away leg after a goalless first leg.
“I have confidence in the young players, and I believe they will do well if they apply themselves,” he said.
Goalkeepers: Dulla Morel, Harim Radegonde
Defenders: Shaib Cathene, Shanon Stravens, Adrian Hoareau, Vince Fred, Ryan Cupidon, Stephan Ladouce, Stan Esther, Graham Faure
Midfielders: Justin Riaze, Jean-Paul Barreau, Jahni Nourice, Imra Raherenianiana, Edward Bastienne
Strikers: Thierry Camille, Shaquille Francourt, Affan Aboudou, Elie Sopha, Assad Aboudou