Uganda: Cecafa Cup Headed South After Failing to Reinvent

8 December 2019

After a two-year hiatus, the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup is upon us.

The opening match of the regional showpiece (if it can be called that!) was staged at Mandela National Stadium yesterday with access to the Uganda-Burundi duel on the house. The gesture speaks volumes about a tournament that has spluttered along without a real sense of purpose.

There was a time when any such proposal to have Africa's oldest football tournament hand spectators freebies would prompt a mixture of derision and alarm.

It didn't need such a 'generous' offer to mask the rot that lay just beneath the surface because there was no decay in the first place.

During its heyday, the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup rattled along with terrific energy so much so no one took a decidedly dimmer view of it. How times change!

The reverse is true nowadays. If Rwanda isn't keeping a choreographed distance from the tournament, then organisers are contriving to create a chaotic mix of peril and promise.

In the load-management era, the latest edition of the tournament (and first staging since 2017) has only succeeded in rousing the ire of Ugandan club owners.

Other participating countries that didn't join Ethiopia, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo in pulling out at the 11th hour sent bit-part players to fly their respective flags. While this shouldn't be such a bad thing, it brings into sharp focus how the Senior Challenge Cup has failed to shake off cynicism and formulaic strictures.

The fall from grace has sprung organically from the Cecafa secretariat's penchant for zany explorations. For instance, in the run up to the ongoing championship here in Uganda, the secretariat headed by Nicholas Musonye performed a now-familiar ritual. A phantom draw ceremony was followed by blanket uncertainty.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the period that flits between will-they-come and won't-they-come impulses should be used to run a media relations campaign. The Cosafa secretariat for one does a bloody good job running media relations campaigns before each of its showpiece tournaments. Besides being robust, the campaigns happen so fast and for the most part so fluidly.

All this makes it worth casting a sceptical eye on any attempt by the Cecafa secretariat to explain its predicament.

The Senior Challenge Cup slots in less gracefully in this McDonaldized era because the description of Cecafa officials as fossils is almost uncomfortably apt.

A lasting solution to propel the regional football governing body out of the time warp would do just fine. But don't bet your bottom dollar on that happening anytime soon.

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