CECAFA 2013: The Bad, The Good And The Ugly
It was a great coincidence; the 2013 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup climax corresponded with one of the most important days in the history of the host nation – Kenya.
On the eventful day (12th December 2013), the nation was marking her 50th independence anniversary off the tyrannical hands of the former colonialists – Britain.
The two-week event was won by the hosts after a 2-0 win over Sudan in the finals and but despite the victory, it had its ups and downs of the tourney regarded to be the oldest on the entire African continent.
Kenya’s 11 Year wait
Since 2002, Kenya had not tasted a Cecafa victory. Winning the 36th edition on home turf, in the 13th finals appearance, the entire nation of Kenya was more than anxious for such a ‘golden’ opportunity.
In fact, this was the Harambee Stars’ 6th time of winning in history rich tournament (others are in 1975,1981,1982,1983 and 2002) on such a momentous day celebrating 50 years of the nation’s independence was such a historic as well as magnificent time.
Up country Venues
Having caught action from all the 5 match venues used – In Machakos (Kenyatta), Nairobi, (Nyayo and City Stadia), Nakuru (Afraha) and Mombasa Municipal Stadium, i was very impressed with the level of endless commitment, the passion of the fans and administrators including the county governors.
Goals, Celebrations and Fun-Fare:
The beauty of the beautiful game is the joy exhibited from the players, technical department and fans alike. Part of this joy breeds from the efficient organization of the teams, through well planned arrangements prior and post the game situation. On the turf, fluid passing of the ball, epitomized by the goals in the back of the net communicates the real beauty and meaning of football.
Prior the finals and third place (Zambia’s win over Tanzania), 62 goals had been scored (compared to previous editions). Sudan’s Salah Ibrahim finished aloft of all the scorers with 5 goals, including that eye catching half volley (in the semi-finals against Zambia in Mombasa).
Ethiopian Antelopes predictably excelled at jealously guarding the ball possession, Kenya capped it all with that colorful Isokonde dance every after a goal has been recorded in the host’s favour.
The dance, which is reportedly to have been ‘smuggled’ into the Kenyan team by the AFC Leopards players, is as eye catching as an eagle snatching a prey off the Indian Ocean waters.
With the organizers dogged with huge figure deficits, the Kenyan government came forth with a miraculous Ksh. 41m (over Rwf 319m). Such money partially assisted in the various logistical and administrative issues concerning the Africa’s oldest football tourney.
The respective County Governors have been another commendable category of personalities especially as regards the timely refurbishment of infrastructure in the counties where the games have been played.
Motivational incentives are some of the positive aspects that these generous governors have had to offer. Nakuru County, Kinutia Mbugua offered the entire Kenyan squad a cash incentive of K.sh 1m (Rwf. 7.7m), a reward after winning a fixture against South Sudan at his home Afraha County Stadium in the Nakuru tourist town. Machakos governor, Alfred Mutuai never let all his guests return on empty stomachs as a sumptuous buffet is on offer for whoever wishes while Ali Hassan Joho’s government airlifted all the 8 quarter-finalists and Cecafa officials to the Mombasa Municipal stadium on top of offering top class accommodation to all in the posh hotels on the coastal town.
Improved Football, Goals and Passionate Fans:
Football fans loved the fluid passing style of play with flicks and tricks here and there. Goals are the icing on the cake of that play. Cheerful supporting throughout the entire of the game has been the scene in all the up country venues of Nakuru, Kenyatta Machakos and Mombasa stadia.
Teams that were previously regarded as the ‘whipping boys’ of the tournament are no longer classified in that category. Coming into the semi-finals, 37 goals had been scored in 22 fixtures of the group stages and quarter-finals with the tourney’s top scorer, Salah Ibrahim (of Sudan) on 5 goals, with 32 different goal scorers.
Whoever expected teams in the Somalia and South Sudan mould to ship in a dozen goals by the end of the day might have been dreaming. Against Somalia for example, one of the lowest ranked teams (204th with just 6 points) on the 207 FIFA accredited members, Tanzania struggled to score just one goal. The Same Somalian side had shipped in 7 goals to the same opposition in the 2011 Kampala edition.
The Diligent Media:
They are termed as the 4th Estate and the Paparazzi. They are direct and indirect marketers of the game bring it closer and firsthand to millions and millions of the people.
Live Screening of the games across the entire African continent has acted to boost the players degree of competition as many have played to ‘promote’ their talents as the quest for greener pastures on the continent and beyond.
Various personalities from the different media houses invested in a fortune of time and finances to cover the tournament exclusively as offer the necessary mileage to the main actors – the players and the sponsors. Thank you media.
The Ugly Scenes:
News of teams missing training sessions as a result of being held up by the hotel authorities dented the rather great reputation of the tourney.
Burundi, Uganda and Zanzibar suffered such instances, scenes that really portrayed ill preparedness from the organizers at the time the nation is ripe for the 50 years of independence celebrations.
Even on the final day of action, the Sudan national team was reportedly held hostage in the team hotel for arrears arising from non-payment of the residential bills.
Tear Gas on the Final Day:
As Zambia and Tanzania played in the third place determinate match, Kenyan fans struggled to enter the match venue and broke the gates. This prompted the Police to fire tear gas canisters. Unfortunately, the
Eritrea Players’ Act:
For the umpteenth time, team members of Eritrean national football team predictably perfected the ‘disappearance act’. Despite being guarded jealously by armed personnel for 24 hours, still 2 of the Eritrea team members vanished in ‘thin air’ and have remained lost till now.
Mandela Passing on:
In between the tourney, news of the death for the great grandfather of the African continent, Nelson Mandela (at 95 years old) filtered in and CECAFA paid a glowing tribute in the 2 matches (Uganda Vs Tanzania, Kenya Vs Rwanda quarter final and Kenya Vs Sudan Finals duels) that followed the untimely death of the anti-apartheid crusade fighter.
Amrouche Seeks Leave on Opening Game:
Against Ethiopia, Kenyan Belgian coach, Adel Amrouche decided to keep away from the team’s technical bench. Whereas, his deputy, James Nandwa defended his suspected absence in relation to a stomach bug, news filtered in fast that Amrouche was protesting against the unpaid players and officials’ allowances and salaries for months gone – a common vice across the continent.
And The Rains??
Nature’s call has no answer to humanity. The December rains across Kenya didn’t only act to keep away the fans from the Stadium especially in Nairobi, but also deprived of the soccer players that liberty of fluid ball passing as many of the fields of play (Afraha in Nakuru, the Machakos Kenyatta Stadium and even the Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi) became unplayable due to the severe water logged surfaces.
The rains, which in many cases are counted a blessing on the African turf watered CECAFA 2013 from day one up to the crowning ceremony presided over by Raila Odinga.
For the positives, the legacy ought to be carried forward and where need arises to improve, special attention should be addressed urgently in preparation for more colourful editions of the African Continent’s oldest football tournament.