Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Soccer Should Promote Peace in Great Lakes

THE CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup has continued to grow and continue to be used as a means of using sports in general and football in particular to promote peace in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa.

CECAFA tournaments attract a very wide following across East and Central Africa, becoming one of the successful soccer events. It involves some of the war ravaged nations such as Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. In Rwanda, former enemies embrace each other and CECAFA, especially using what is now known as Kagame Cup, has played a big role to achieve this.

The ability of football to harness and project emotions is one sure way of uniting people. In East and Central Africa, a region divided along ethnic, political and cultural lines, sports, especially football, is the only good language many people would understand.

However, the region has for quite some time been thrown out of contention in big time soccer, including the World Cup and African Cup of Nations. It would seem the region has literally banned itself from international soccer. Technically, the region has struggled to qualify teams for big tournaments due to the lack of proper planning right from the grassroots and Tenga acknowledges this weakness.

We think that the region was not investing enough in terms of planning right from the grassroots like the way it is done in North, South and West Africa, where they have clear plans for World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations. Young, ambitious and highly talented soccer players hardly realize their dreams in CECAFA region.

They are exposed to poor playing surfaces that lead to long-term, if not, permanent injuries. They never come by adequate facilities like uniforms, and medical attention, yet FIFA and other sponsors pumps money into nonexistent youth soccer. However, the region is not in complete doldrums.

Football leaders must appreciate that the sweetness of an omelet is in breaking the egg. They need to act and seize the chance. But first of all, they must squarely deal with soccer mismanagement. Sound sports administration is a key to success in the activity anywhere in the world, East and Central Africa being no exception. All said and done; governments and sports authorities in the region must focus on youth soccer, nurture it and promote it.

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