Weather-beaten Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup kicks off

Africa’s oldest sub- regional tournament, the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup got underway off in Kampala, Uganda with ten countries taking centre stage in a tournament which has become a laughing stock basing on its declining standards. The performance of the region’s national teams on the continent has gone to the doldrums with no Cecafa country featuring in the Caf Nations’ cup regularly.
NEW AND OLD: Leodgar Chilla Tenga (L) and his predecessor Denis Obua (C) with Cecafa’s  Nicholas Musonye share a light moment after last year’s congress.
NEW AND OLD: Leodgar Chilla Tenga (L) and his predecessor Denis Obua (C) with Cecafa’s Nicholas Musonye share a light moment after last year’s congress.

Africa’s oldest sub- regional tournament, the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup got underway off in Kampala, Uganda with ten countries taking centre stage in a tournament which has become a laughing stock basing on its declining standards.

The performance of the region’s national teams on the continent has gone to the doldrums with no Cecafa country featuring in the Caf Nations’ cup regularly.

Kenya made it to Nations ‘cup in Senegal in 1992, Rwanda in 2004 in Tunisia and Sudan in Ghana 2008. The region, still lags behind and it needs to find a solution to better its performance on the continent.

In the 2010 World Cup/Africa Cup of Nations only Kenya, Rwanda and Sudan advanced to the final qualification yet Cecafa has 11 member countries. Qualifiers high riders Rwanda have ended the year on a high note after being ranked 78th in the latest Fifa rankings.

Rwanda jumped nine places from 87 in November to clinch its highest ever position since the rankings system was established.

In the Cecafa region, Rwanda is behind Kenya (68) and Uganda (71) respectively.

Kenya leaped 17 positions to the take the summit of the region.

Uganda climbed above Rwanda despite its failure to reach the final round of the 2010 World/Africa Cup qualifiers. Only Rwanda, Kenya and Sudan managed to reach the third round of the 2010 World/Africa Cup qualifying phase.

Zambia dropped one position to occupy 72 position. 

Cecafa president, Leodegar Tenga and his secretary general Nicholas Musonye are confident Uganda will host a successful tournament. Tenga said the facilities were in impressive shape, adding “we can not ask for more.”

“The tournament preparations show signs that there is success already,” Tenga visiting Uganda for the first time remarked.

“What Ugandans have to do is to come up in big numbers and support the tournament.”

Tenga, who was re-elected as Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) president, arrived in Kampala to acquaint himself with preparations for the event due to kick off today.

Tournament sponsors GTV had put aside 60,000 US dollars as prize money for the top three teams.

Zambia replaced Eritrea in this year’s tournament after the latter failed to put together its national team in time.

Zambia is a member of Council of South African Football Associations (Cosafa), but was originally a member of Cecafa before the launch the southern African council.

Zambia are five times finalists at the same tournament, including winning the trophy in 1991 at Kampala’s Nakivubo Stadium in Uganda before their shift.

Eritrea pulled out due to administrative wrangles in the home federation. Zambia will play in Group B alongside Kenya, Sudan and Burundi. The group has its preliminary matches at Jinja’s Bugembe stadium.

In 2006, Zambia were invited to participate at the East Africa Championship and then coached by Patrick Phiri, the “Chipolopolo Boys”, which was made up of local based players, emerged victorious.

They have won the Cecafa tournament three times in 1984,1991 and 2006. After failing to win the trophy since 2002, Kenya’s Harambee Stars will be hoping to redeem their image in this year’s tourney.

Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Zambia are expected to keenly contest this year’s competition.

Rwanda, seeking their second title, needs to field a strong team that will compete favourably.

Rwanda kicked off their campaign by playing hosts on the 1st of January 2009 at Namboole stadium last night.

Rwanda has a fairly difficult route after being drawn in Group A alongside Tanzania, Zanzibar, Somalia and usual nemesis Uganda.

Although the team has been deprived of key players like its captain Olivier Karekezi, Haruna Niyonzima, Patrick Mafisango, Jean Baptista Mugiraneza and Jean Luc Ndayishimiye, Ferwafa is confident that it will deliver.

HISTORY OF CECAFA

The Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) is arguably the oldest sub-regional football organisation in Africa.

Founded unofficially in 1927 by a British Businessman based in Nairobi, the event was initially given his name -Gossage.

Mr. Gossage was a shrewd businessman based in Nairobi and loved football and sports in General. After the completion the “long Snake” famous Uganda - Kenya Railway in the early 1900’s, there were many idle African men strutting around the emerging Nairobi and Kampala cities.

Most of them were indigebous Africans, Asians and Nubians who had provided labour for the construction of the Railway line. Gossage thought the best social event to keep these men active was sports and more precisely football.

So in 1927, he initiated a tournament involving Kenya and Uganda and named it Gossage Cup. The tournament was, played between Kampala and Nairobi for many years and was one of the popular events in Africa during that time.

Tanganyika (Now Tanzania) joined in 1944 ‘and entered the tournament for the first time in 945.

The Island of Zanzibar, then controlled by the Arab traders joined the fray in 1948 and the tournament became four-nation event.

The event kept the name Gossage Cup until 1963 after ‘independence of all the four nations and that name was changed to the East African Challenge Cup. The tournament remained a four-nation event until, 1973 when its doors opened to more members.

At a special meeting in Nairobi, members from Somalia, Zambia and Ethiopia sought membership and it was at this stage that the name CECAFA was conceived.

The event has now attracted seven members and the first Headquarters was temporarily shifted to Mogadishu Somalia before it reverted to Nairobi, and the tournament was then renamed Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup. 

In 1974, members of the now expanded Council introduced the tournament for champion Clubs and the first Club Cup Championship was inaugurated in Dar-es Salaam, Tanzania in 1974.

Sudan and Malawi joined the growing family in 1975. Then in 1981, Zimbabwe, fresh from independence victory joined the CECAFA family.

However in 1994 after the collapse of apartheid in South Africa, COSAFA was formed and naturally, the three Southern nations, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe left CECAFA to join their rightful zone - COSAFA.

The departure of the three countries opened the doors for Rwanda, Burundi and Eritrea, the same with Djibouti joining in 1995.

This raised the CECAFA membership to 11 countries namely: Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Zanzibar, Somalia, Rwanda, Djibouti and Burundi. 

Since 1996, when Sudan hosted the Challenge Cup with the new members on board, the Council has grown strong in maintaining the status of its membership and regularly hosting the Challenge Cup, the Club tournament and re-launched the Under-19 Youth tournament in Zanzibar in August, 2003.

The Challenge Cup and Club tournaments are held annually while the Youth tournament is staged after every two years while in 2007 the annual U-17 Championship was inaugurated in Burundi. ­

Ends

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