Nairobi — With Ethiopia and South Sudan pulling out due to financial reasons and DR Congo also not confirming their participation, the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup Organizing Committee has re-jigged fixtures for this year's competition which kicks off on Saturday in Kampala.
The three exits mean there will only be nine teams competing for the title and have now been drawn into two groups with the top two sides in each pool moving straight to the semi finals.
Defending champions Kenya will be in Pool B with Tanzania, Zanzibar and Sudan and will kick off their campaign against Tanzania on Sunday.
Pool A will have hosts Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Somalia and Eritrea with Djibouti playing Somalia in the opening fixture on Saturday while home side Uganda will tackle Djibouti in the day's second game.
The matches have also been shifted back to Kampala from Jinja and will be hosted at the Kampala City Council Authority Grounds in Lugogo.
Initially, the games were to be hosted at the FUFA Technical Centre in Njeru, Jinja. But, the Under-17 girls' tournament has been moved there while the Senior Challenge will be played in the Capital.
Kenya is expected to travel to Kampala on Friday while Djibouti have already arrived.
Stars have been training in Nairobi since Monday with head coach Francis Kimanzi set to name his final squad after the Friday morning session. He will drop seven players from the preliminary team to remain with a travelling party of 20.
"We are still looking at the players. We have a very good group and everyday we give them freedom to express themselves and show joy on the pitch. We will pick the best team on Friday to go and represent the country," Kimani said.
Meanwhile, midfielder Whyvonne Isuza who was part of the squad that lifted the title in 2017 says they are ready to go and defend their crown.
"Teams have changed, and so have we. We know it will not be difficult but our target is to go and represent our country well. Personally I want to win it for a second time and the other players who have never won it also have the hunger to do so," said the AFC Leopards midfielder.