Regional countries are gearing up for the second edition of the Council of the East and Central African Football Association (CECAFA) Women Championship which kicks off on Sunday in the Ugandan Eastern district of Jinja. The inaugural edition was held in 1986 and was won by the hosts, Zanzibar.
Women football is not very popular in the region and to predict rightly the team that will win the first tournament can be exceptionally hard because almost anyone can beat anyone; nonetheless Saturday Sport’s Jejje Muhinde looks at each team and their chances.
On top of being the tournament hosts, Uganda is the only country in the entire region with a national women’s league that has been active for the last two years. However, because of inactivity in international competitions for over 17 months, the Crested Cranes are ranked a lowly 129th worldwide and 22nd in Africa.
The Crested Cranes and their coach Majidah Nantanda, a former national player, have a chance of winning the title because of the home advantage. Players to watch out include: Experienced defender Christine Wanyana, who is also the skipper, Laki Otandeka, and Zaina Namuleme to name a few.
Jean Peace Seninde from Queen’s Park Rangers in England and striker Laki Otandeka from USA are the two professionals on the team. However, Uganda will be without the services of Sandra Nabweteme, who left for the U.S last month. The hosts face Kenya in the opening match.
On the CECAFA women front, Tanzania also has a rating. They are ranked 22nd in Africa and 125 in worldwide according to the FIFA women’s rankings for the month of August.
Going into the inaugural tournament, Twiga Stars are among the favourites and hold a better advantage over others having played in last year’s African Women Championship qualifiers.
Head coach Rogasian Kaijage won’t have much trouble to inspire confidence among her players since they have individual talent to build around.
The highest ranked regional team, according to the latest FIFA women’s rankings, the Lucy and Dinknesh are placed 105 globally and 15th on the continent. Ethiopia is another one of the regional major players and they should be treated with caution.
Newly appointed Ethiopia women national team coach Meseret Manne has named star player Loza Abera, who bagged the most valuable player last season in their home league. She is the most notable face in their squad.
Manne, who was appointed last month, has the required experience having previously handled the team four years back before taking over at Dire Dawa, a men’s team she guided to promotion to the Ethiopian Premier League in the 2015 season.
This year they advanced to the final round of the continental qualifiers for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup after a barren draw with Burkina Faso in Addis Ababa.
She earned admiration and respect as the only woman in charge of a men’s team in a top-flight football league in Africa. With such a coach, Ethiopia remains a solid, well-oiled team that could well reach the latter stages of the CECAFA competition.
Kenya are another solid side going into the tournament, the Harambee Starlets beat Uganda 4-0 in a friendly match in July in Kisumu. The team will be using the event to prepare for the forthcoming African Women’s Cup of Nation in Cameroon.
Starlets have been drawn in Pool ‘A’ alongside Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania and begin their title hunt against the hosts on Sunday, who will be out for revenge. Esse Akida, the Kenyan women’s league top score, will be the player to watch for them.
Can either Ethiopia or Tanzania win the title? Of course they can, whilst sides may be past their heydays, they are still competent women football nations and it would be foolish to write either team off.
Not so much is known about Burundi given the fact that the team has not competed in a match recognized by FIFA. They will be playing their first officially recognized competition.
For sure, She-Amavubi will find it hard having been out of action for almost two years. Head coach Grace Nyinawumuntu says the players are poised ever since the holdup was lifted.
The former Rwanda international center-back admits her team is not among the title favourites due to the fact that they never played and reached the later stages of any competition. Rwanda takes on Tanzania in the first game in Pool ‘B’.
The Zanzibar Queens won the first CECAFA Women Championships back in 1986 in their own backyard—the event has been held ever since. Zanzibar will face Burundi in the opening match.