The annual Cecafa Cub Championship dubbed Kagame Cup gets underway in Dar es Salaam Tanzania on Sunday August 1st.
Only eight teams have confirmed participation including guests Big Bullets from Malawi but shockingly, none from Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan.
Even ‘small nations’ like Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia have sent no representatives at this year’s tournament an indication of lack of value to the particular clubs.
Gone are the days when this tournament would attract the best of the best from the region, not only clubs but players too.
Simba, arguably the biggest club in the region at the moment has not featured for several years, Al Merriekh won it in 2014 but opted not to defend it the following year, Ethiopia’s big guns St. George and Coffee have gone missing for several years and so is Al Hilal.
Now add traditional Rwanda giants APR and Rayon Sport opting out, Kenya’s Tusker also withdrew at the last minute and that signals lack of value or no importance to these clubs unlike before.
The competition has really lost its urge to attract the big boys and if something isn’t done soon, the tournament will go to the dogs and become just an invitational tournament of sorts.
Previously, it would be a tournament for the champions of the respective leagues with host nation given the nod to have two clubs and sometimes the defending club’s nation as well.
You would be shocked to realise that over 50% of the teams at this year’s tournament wouldn’t qualify to take part in yesteryears.
Veteran journalist Fred Katende alias Malibu believes that Cecafa should reprimand teams like Simba, APR, Al Merriekh, St, George, Tusker, Gor Mahia and the like that refuse to play in the tournament.
“You can’t organise a tournament minus the big boys and you expect it to hold the same value,” says Malibu. “There should be punishments for teams that withdraw their participation,” he adds before urging the Cecafa to make the tournament valuable and attractive to these clubs.
“But again, has the Secretariat made the tournament of value to these clubs? No. For the past twenty years or so, the prize money has never changed yet the cost of having teams prepare and take part in the tournament continue to rise.
“They (Cecafa heads) must look for big sponsors to increase prize moneys and also other incentives. A football boot that cost less than 20$ in 2000 now costs over 200$ but the prize money has never changed.”
For the record, since 2002, the prize money remains 30,000$, 20,000$ and 10,000$ for winners, losing finalists and third placed team respectively.
John Vianney Nsimbe, a journalist with The Observer in Uganda blames the leadership of Cecafa for the deteriorating standards of not only the club championship but the Senior Challenge Cup as well.
“It’s the lack of proper leadership that has killed the competitions,” asserts Nsimbe.
“For instance, how can a whole annual tournament lack specific dates? People at the Cecafa secretariat just wake up and fix dates.
“These dates must be known so that even national leagues can align with them for purposes of good planning. Previously, it was held in pre-season when league followed the normal year but of recent, it starts when leagues in some nations are still on. Kenya for instance still has their league on and it’s tough to have their teams represented.
“There must be a standard calendar for all the Cecafa organised competitions to avoid collision with local FAs Calendars and Caf as well as Fifa.
Like Malibu, Nsimbe also believes that the current prize money isn’t any attractive and wonders how even with the presence of TV, clubs haven’t benefited from the sponsorship.
“In early 2000s, there was no money from TV but currently, there is Azam and previously SuperSport. However, their sponsorship never went down to teams who invest in players but the secretariat.
“In all honesty, I think Cecafa needs a vibrant leadership with a Secretary General that breathes and thinks for the growth of the game and then FA presidents who think in the same direction. But without that now, expect the competitions to lose meaning even beyond what we see now.
Meanwhile, Young Africans of Tanzania has opted to bring their youth squad and technical bench for this year’s tournament and not their A team citing fatigue.
Does that give the tournament any competition as it used to be before when star players like Fred Tamale, Edibily Lunyamila, Saidi Mwamba Kizota, Sula Kato, James Kayimba, Endurance Idaho, and Jimmy Gatete were the attractions of the fans? Your guess is as good as mine.
In 2019, KCCA won it without most of their key players because Uganda was playing at Afcon and so was Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi and DR Congo who all had participating teams.
That wouldn’t be the case in yesteryears when the tournament attracted scouts from all over Africa.