As someone who made my first visit to a proper football stadium during the Council of East and Central Africa Football Association (Cecafa) Senior Challenge Cup of 1984, I should be looking forward to yet another edition.
It’s a shame though that like me, a lot of people will not bother this year, but, hey, that’s for the hosts Kenya to worry about. So why Kenya as host? It couldn’t have been a random decision. It came after the hosting rights had been hawked around the region in vain.
And faced with the possibility of the third abandonment in three years, Cecafa must have said, this one doesn’t have to be held to any high standard. And that is how we ended up with a destination recently deemed unfit to host the African Nations Championship (Chan).
Despite what the public relations people say, don’t expect Kenya to wear their hosting rights with pride.
For one, they can’t count on local support- a vital fuel for the success for such tournaments.
People who are stepping out of a brutal five-month political contest cannot be expected to be warm hosts.
Meanwhile in their wisdom, Cecafa felt that football should heal those wounds and the host cities of Kisumu Kakamega and Mumias are smack in the areas most affected by the political fall out! But even if football did indeed heal the wounds of western Kenya, the tournament is in decline and proof of that lies in the fact that no one bothers to bring their senior team any longer. We have become essentially uninterested, in ways that no one wants to admit. It could be because there are more prestigious competitions to go for like Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) or Chan.
Either way, it is becoming hard to imagine anything more shambolic than the current state-of-affairs, which begs the question, why bother with Cecafa anymore.
When Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe left for Confederation of South Africa Football Associations (Cosafa), we accused them mixing up geographical convenience and delusions of grandeur. But maybe it was simply down to the realisation that belonging to Fifa’s bottom 100 wouldn’t improve their football.
Uganda stayed to free-load it over Kenya who remains a sleeping giant, and Tanzania which seems happy enough with clubs that are bigger than its national team.
And to be honest I just don’t know what to say about everyone else. Perhaps there is nothing to say.
So, there is no point pretending that things aren’t boring.
Not even the money pumped in by corporates like East African Breweries Limited (EABL) or businessmen like Sheikh Mohammed Al Amoudi will return clout to this 91-year-old tournament. This lack of interest will continue whoever hosts for the issue is this: East Africa doesn’t offer competition and will not work for associations seeking progress. The tournament is therefore no longer fit for purpose.
This may not be the end as we imagined it, but the lack of interest is clear for all to see. We had better kill it off and allow other tournaments like the more inclusive Chan to develop in its place.