Whither, whether, or what for CECAFA Challenge Cup?


Two months ago a certain African football federation was thrown into turmoil when the host of their show piece event suddenly withdrew. While CAF moved with speed to save the Africa Cup of Nations, the body I’m talking about is the Confederation and East and Central African Football Associations, and the event in question is the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup.

Born as the Gossage Cup in the 1920s, the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup is the oldest running international football tournament on the African Continent, was due to be hosted in Ethiopia in its traditional November-December window.

Kenya’s Harambee Stars are the current defending champions, having won the 2013 edition as hosts. That year’s tournament had its own problems as FKF, struggled to mobilize funds to ensure all th hosting costs were met in good time. There was the embarrassment of a national team detained in a city hotel over unpaid bills.

Harambee Stars fans follow the action in a past Senior Challenge Cup (Source:Nation.co.ke)

After a number of behind the scenes efforts, CECAFA finally gave up (at least for this year) and the tournament was called off. Word spreading on several sports sites indicates that the tournament long overdue an overhaul and that nation were increasingly averse to hosting the show in its current format.

Apparently, some of CECAFA’s members want a home and away league system (like in the UEFA Champions League) with finalists playing each other at a neutral venue at the end of the year. Or something like that

If this reform carries through, it will pretty much eliminate the burden of one country having to host several teams and the delegations and fans, that apparently was the beef behind most of the CECAFA members dislike for the once off tournament format.

However, spreading the CECAFA tournament will have its draw backs. For instance, given that most of the time the players are involved in club football (home and abroad) and when that is not going on, World Cup and CAN Qualifiers, when will these matches be held?

Will there not likely be resistance from those clubs whose plates are already full with local league, and continental commitments? Asking them to allow their start players to commit to an additional ~22 (11 opponents x 2 games) during the competitive season might a bitter pi8ll to swallow. Not to mention issues of security, in countries like Somalia in particular. Will they host their won matches?

That being said, no actual changes have been announced, yet and in all likelihood, the promoters of change might not get the numbers to force anything at all through. Nonetheless, with this years’ Challenge Cup tournament off the books, and potential host showing cold feet, clearly things cannot go on as is.

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Since Harambee Stars last CECAFA Victory…


Kenya’s Harambee stars open their 2013 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup campaign against a strong Ethiopia at Nyayo stadium at 4:30pm (East African Time). The Harambee Stars have won the tournament, which is the oldest active international soccer tournament in Africa, 5 times overall with last time being in 2002 when the team was coached by a then fresh faced Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee. That was the same ghost Mulee who would lead Kenya to their only win at the finals of an Africa Cup of nations, in the 2004 edition, and has since won a number of trophies with Tusker FC, before settling into a life of TV punditry. That is a story for another day
Anyway this article is dedicated to looking at some of the things that have happened on and off the soccer pitch in Kenya since Harambee stars were last CECAFA Challenge Cup winners.
If he makes it to March next year, Adel Amrouche will become only the 2nd Harambee stars coach to finish a whole calendar year as national team head coach
Kenya has had three presidential elections, and two presidents (Mwai Kibaki, and Uhuru Kenyatta) elected to high office. In between there have been two constitutional referendums, one election crisis, a grand coalition government, and the beginning of two crimes against humanity cases at The Hague.
Shabana FC, Posta Rangers, Red Berets, and among other perennial top flight football teams have faded into oblivion, while only Sofapaka and have really established themselves in Kenya’s Premier League since then.
Three Kenyans (two of them brothers) have participated in the UEFA Champions League, one even has a winners’ medal. There is a Kenyan in a practice squad on an NFL franchise, and a Kenyan born cyclist has won the Tour de France
Kenya made it to the semi finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup once (in 2003), but has only won one game in the subsequent two editions in 2007 and 2011.
Kenya has made it to the semi finals of the Rugby Sevens World Cup twice? And become a core member of the Sevens World Series Circuit.
One David Rudisha became the first athlete to break an 800 metres World Record at the Olympics final. He also became the first man to run 800m sub 1:41, among other amazing things that happened in that race in the London 2012 Olympics.
These are just a few of the things that have happened in Kenya since Harambee stars last won the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup. Can they break the drought this round?

JUST IN: Word on the Street says Harambee Stars may coach may have already resigned over unpaid dues. Oh well…