After a two-year hiatus, the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup is upon us.Some will say the once once huge tournament is on its death bed as they luck sponsors even broadcasters as the matches are played in Uganda.
The opening match of the regional showpiece (if it can be called that!) was staged at Mandela National Stadium with access to the Uganda-Burundi duel on the house. The gesture speaks volumes about a tournament that has spluttered along without a real sense of purpose.
There was a time when any such proposal to have Africa’s oldest football tournament hand spectators freebies would prompt a mixture of derision and alarm.
It didn’t need such a ‘generous’ offer to mask the rot that lay just beneath the surface because there was no decay in the first place.
During its heyday, the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup rattled along with terrific energy so much so no one took a decidedly dimmer view of it. How times change!
The reverse is true nowadays. If Rwanda isn’t keeping a choreographed distance from the tournament, then organisers are contriving to create a chaotic mix of peril and promise.
The Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA), the oldest regional confederation within CAF and consisting of the countries around East Africa and the Horn will be hosting its flagship competition – The senior challenge cup – in Uganda starting this coming Saturday 7th December 2019 for a 2-week period.
The Senior Challenge Cup is the elite male National team competition for the 12 member organization which comprises Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi.
In what has become the norm, CECAFA would invite the National teams of some non-members to spice up the football offering or to even out the numbers and raise the level of competition.
CECAFA is the successor competition to the Gossage Cup, held 37 times from 1926 until 1966, and the East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup, held 7 times between 1966 and 1972.
CECAFA was subsequently formed in 1973 and the competition became known as the CECAFA Cup.
Back in Africa, COSAFA continues to host an inordinate number of senior, women’s, age-grade competitions for its 14 members with nary a complaint.
WAFU-UFOA has also entered a commercial arrangement with Fox Sport for its flagship competition –WAFU Cup of Nations – though the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
So you can understand the shock and dismay to hear that at least 4 teams withdrew from the CECAFA Tournament in Uganda.
Democratic Republic of Congo (guest team), Rwanda, South Sudan and Ethiopia have all announced their withdrawal from the competition despite earlier confirming participation.
This follows a decision by CECAFA to ambush each participating team with a $ 20,000 charge to help defray expenses. A highly unprecedented and unanticipated turn of events, most teams insist they had been unaware of this requirement and thus had insufficient time to approach Government or other sponsors to cater for this part of the expense.
It all begs the question why, for instance, COSAFA would appear to weathering the storm and running multiple competitions on an annual basis while CECAFA seems to be bumbling along in fits and starts of its competitions.
What is COSAFA SG Sue Destombes doing right that CECAFA SG Nicholas Musonye seems unable to fathom?
You can answer that question for yourself .