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Sports News
Shining Stars 1/21/2007
As the continent''s youth gather in Congo for this month''s African Youth Championship, the list of players they can draw inspiration from is long.

One of the last winners of the tournament, Taye Taiwo of Nigeria is now a regular defender with former French champions Marseille.

It was at this same level that Ghana''s Michael Essien made his mark in Ethiopia six years ago before he headed off to join Bastia in France.

Today, the 2006 BBC African Footballer of the Year is one of the most prominent names in the world game and turns out for English champions Chelsea.

On top of Essien, Ghana''s impressive display at last year''s World Cup finals in Germany was also thanks largely to that generation of players in Ethiopia.

Midfielder Sulley Muntari, striker Razak Pimpong and defender John Paintsil - who all now play in Europe - represented Ghana at the tournament.

Meanwhile, Derek Boateng was compared to Diego Maradona by some locals as he helped Ghana finish runners-up at the 2001 Fifa World Youth Championship in Argentina.

The 2001 African Youth Championship also unveiled Ahmed ''Mido'' Hossam to major teams across the globe.

As European clubs chased the Egyptian striker''s signature, he needed to be left out of the squad going to Argentina later that year.

Another player to come out of the Addis Ababa championship was Angola''s Mantorras who had virtually packed his bags to join Benfica of Portugal before his side beat Ghana 2-0 in the final.

When he arrived in Lisbon, the forward was quick to be baptised as the new Eusebio - the Mozambican-born Portuguese hero who so shone at the 1966 World Cup finals.

Mantorras was a big hit for Angola in 2001

In 1997, South African striker Benni McCarthy was in outstanding form at the tournament in Morocco.

The South Africans were beaten by the hosts in the final, but McCarthy was soon on his way to Holland''s four-time European champions Ajax and a place in the Bafana Bafana squad for the 1998 Nations Cup followed.

As Ghana hosted the tournament in 1999, talents emerged who are still making headlines.

Modeste Mbami and Daniel Ngom Kome failed to make Cameroon shine they did end up in the books of European scouts.

Ghana''s Laryea Kingston, who missed the 2006 World Cup only due to a hefty suspension, scored the only goal in the final against West African rivals Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the performances of Zambia''s Andrew Sinkala guided his team to the 1997 Fifa World Championships in Nigeria.

With all respect to the names mentioned, surely one of the most distinguished to graduate from this level is Nigeria''s Jay-Jay Okocha, who participated at the 1993 championships in Mauritius.

Nigeria performed poorly on the island but the midfielder''s displays against Ghana and Cameroon made it clear he was destined for greater heights.

Only in 1991 did the under-20 competition become a proper tournament as it had previously been a knock-out tournament to decide which teams qualified for the Fifa World Youth Championships.

Nonetheless, the likes of Ivorian Youssouf Fofana, Chokri El Ouaer of Tunisia as well as Nigeria''s Samson Siasia still made names for themselves during the knock-out format.

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