In Summary
  • Musonye, Mwendwa should bury the hatchet and support the continent’s oldest regional football tournament.
  • Musonye, a former sports journalist, said late last year that Cecafa members should learn to protect their property.

Emotions are still raw after the country suffered the shame of being stripped of rights to host the 2018 African Nations Championship. The chance of hosting some of the big names in African football — Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco et al — went up in smoke, just like that.

Meanwhile, our beloved national team Harambee Stars was long knocked out of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, meaning Kenya was condemned to little or no competitive international football on its soil until the second round of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. Their next fixture is in March against Ghana.

It all looked gloom and doom until the Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) endorsed Kenya as hosts of the 2017 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup. What a godsend!

In fact, Kenya has long been associated with the Senior Challenge Cup going back to the Gossage Cup days of the 1920s when it was a two team affair between Harambee Stars and Uganda Cranes before Tanganyika and then Zanzibar joined the fray in the 1940s. Now it is a 12-nation affair.

The Senior Challenge Cup, Africa’s oldest regional football competition, has over the years helped member nations develop their football and Harambee Stars build their reputation, and that is the spirit that Football Kenya Federation, under the sometimes belligerent Nick Mwenda, should embrace.

I remember in 2010 in Luanda, Angola, during the Confederation of African Football (Caf) Congress, former Fifa President Sepp Blatter praised Cecafa for their outstanding contribution to African football. The Council had gone 10 years in a row staging three tournaments annually and attracting huge sponsorships across the region – GTV, SuperSport, EABL, just to name a few of the big corporations.

Things though started going south in Cecafa two years ago when wrangles and schemes to stage a leadership coup played negatively against the Council.

Secretary General Nicholas Musonye, who has been at the centre of action in Cecafa activities since 1999, went underground as daggers were drawn all over the region. He appeared at Caf functions and made little comment on Cecafa matters. When the Council failed to organise a single event in 2016, there was fear that the long serving Secretary General was no longer interested in the regional organisation and Cecafa was on its death bed. But then, there were other forces pulling in different directions.

However, Musonye, a former sports journalist, said late last year that Cecafa members should learn to protect their property. “When it was down and virtually dead in the late 90s, some of us saw the need to revive it because it is the only organisation that holds our region together with passion,” he said.

The plain, painful truth is that most of the teams in the zone do not qualify for Fifa and Caf final events and it is only Cecafa that can stage competitions at this level and keep the players in the region active internationally.

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