Just before the World Cup kicked off in Russia, FIFA announced that the 2026 edition of the games will be hosted by three countries; Canada, USA and Mexico. The World Cup has always been hosted by one country save for the time South Korea and Japan hosted it in 2002. The 2026 edition will be hosted in 16 cities and 48 countries will take part, an increase from the current 32. Allan Brian Ssenyonga Morocco had once again placed in its bid but lost. It must be noted that Morocco has tried quite a number of times to host the World Cup and I believe they have not yet given up on this ambition. As usual some saw this as an African bid although some African countries did not vote in favour of Morocco for varied reasons. What caught my eye was a tweet from someone jokingly suggesting that East Africa should bid to jointly host the World Cup. The tweet ended by urging readers not to laugh at the suggestion. Personally I did not find this to be such a weird suggestion given that I once wrote on this column that we should bid to host the Africa Cup of Nations as a region. It was my fantasy then, built around the idea of each country having two or three big stadia with players moving across the region to play their games using the regional airlines while majority of supporters use the trains and buses to follow their teams around. These dreams may or may not come to life one day. For now we can still take lots of notes and learn from this great football spectacle. For me the greatest lesson here is that we should invest a lot in the development of the game so that come 2026 we should have a team from this region. I know the Democratic Republic of Congo has been there but I am talking about Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania or Burundi. Just close your eyes and imagine any of those countries playing at least three games at the world’s biggest sports stage. You will agree with me that we should by now be tired of being represented by linesmen and referees some of whom have embarrassed us by picking bribes. Furthermore, I think we need to do more to build a culture of supporting our sports teams at all levels. It should not stop at middle class parents showing up to cheer their little ones at school sports events. Support for local clubs needs to grow and be commercialised so that the players can live purely professional lives as sportsmen and women. We have some few big clubs in the region but we need more to build competitiveness of our leagues. We also need to find a way to tame our addiction to foreign leagues. I am not saying it is bad to support superior sports franchises but if we for example bought local team jerseys the way we buy those for clubs in the UK and Spain for instance our local clubs would have some little more cash to handle their ways in a more professional manner. Almost everyone was shocked by how fast the World Cup jersey for the Nigerian team went off the shelves. I am sure the executives at Nike will enjoy some well deserved holidays in the Caribbean just from that one sweet deal. Egypt’s star striker is also such a huge personal brand that he is ranked among some of the top in the world of sports not just football. We need to start having these conversations with young people to inspire them that there is a whole industry out there that thrives on great talent and discipline. We have to remind them that when we say education is the key, the statement refers to learning and mastering anything and not just what is examined at the end of the academic year. The last lesson that I wish we could pick from this tournament is one that I keep going on and on about – country branding. We need to remind the world that Africa is not a country but it is a continent with many countries. I noticed that when our brothers from the north of the continent are playing we say that is Africa. But when they lose we place them back in the basket labelled Arab. Let us as a region find our way there first instead of throwing labels from outside. Email: email@example.com Blog: www.ssenyonga.wordpress.com Twitter: @ssojo81 The views expressed in this article are of the author.