The Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA), the oldest regional confederation within CAF and consisting of the countries around East Africa and the Horn will be hosting its flagship competition – The senior challenge cup – in Uganda starting this coming Saturday 7th December 2019 for a 2-week period.
The Senior Challenge Cup is the elite male National team competition for the 12 member organization which comprises Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi.
In what has become the norm, CECAFA would invite the National teams of some non-members to spice up the football offering or to even out the numbers and raise the level of competition.
CECAFA is the successor competition to the Gossage Cup, held 37 times from 1926 until 1966, and the East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup, held 7 times between 1966 and 1972.
CECAFA was subsequently formed in 1973 and the competition became known as the CECAFA Cup.
Along the way, CECAFA diversified their football offering by creating a Champions League Competition to compliment the Senior Challenge Cup.
The Club Champions competition was thus renamed CECAFA Cup while the National team competition took up its current name, Senior Challenge Cup.
CECAFA is one of the recognized zonal unions of CAF and the senior challenge Cup has over the years attracted varied commercial and broadcast interest in the region.
Along the way CECAFA has picked and dropped various title sponsors including Castle Lager, Tusker and GoTV while it has also attracted several different broadcasters for its TV offering including the short-lived GTV, Pan-African broadcaster Supersport and currently Tanzanian AZAM TV.
At the helm of CECAFA for a consistent 20 years has been former journalist turned football administrator Nicholas Musonye who has been the Secretary-General for the period.
The straight-talking Kenyan has indicated his intention to leave the seat by July 2020 to seek fortune elsewhere. A clearly audacious decision because the organization is currently hamstrung by a deficiency of thought and new ideas that has seen it lag behind the other zonal confederations in CAF.
CAF has 5 (five) Zonal Unions namely, UNAF (North Africa), WAFU-UFOA (West Africa), UNIFFAC (Central Africa), CECAFA (East Africa) and COSAFA (Southern Africa).
For some reason, neither the bumbling leadership of former CAF President Hayatou nor the shambolic decimation of CAF by the current disaster President Ahmad really wanted to devolve the management of the African game to the Zonal Unions as should be the case, instead preferring to keep all decision-making and execution of programs centralized in Cairo.
In due course, the Zonal Unions became political appendages of CAF and those Unions that were clearly bereft of leadership slowly suffocated, namely UNIFFAC while UNAF seems to have slowly drifted and attached itself to the Arab Union, preferring instead to compete within the Arab bloc.
The situation has become so dangerous that the CAF Super Cup between Tunisian club ES Tunis and Egyptian giants Zamalek has now been re-scheduled to take place on Valentine’s Day 2020 in Doha, Qatar.
This followed the signing away by Ahmad of the African birthright to host its own competition to Qatar for 3 years, with the 2020 edition being the 2nd such final to be hosted in that country.
Back in Africa, COSAFA continues to host an inordinate number of senior, women’s, age-grade competitions for its 14 members with nary a complaint.
WAFU-UFOA has also entered a commercial arrangement with Fox Sport for its flagship competition –WAFU Cup of Nations – though the execution leaves a lot to be desired. For instance, WAFU continues to host its competitions on a single venue as they did in Ghana 2017 and earlier this year in Senegal despite hosting 16 member teams for the competition.
To refer to this situation as extremely tardy and unkempt would be an understatement.
So why the utterly amateurish running of the Zonal Unions?
According to FIFA in a circular earlier this year on FIFA Forward program funding;
“Up to USD 1,000,000 for zonal/regional associations will be released to the respective confederations in January of each year provided that the zonal/regional association is recognized by the confederation and organizes at least one women’s, two boys’ and two girls’ competitions (for national teams or clubs)”.
So you can understand the shock and dismay to hear that at least 4 teams have confirmed their withdrawal from this weekend’s CECAFA Tournament in Uganda.
Democratic Republic of Congo (guest team), Rwanda, South Sudan and Ethiopia have all announced their withdrawal from the competition despite earlier confirming participation.
This follows a decision by CECAFA to ambush each participating team with a $ 20,000 charge to help defray expenses. A highly unprecedented and unanticipated turn of events, most teams insist they had been unaware of this requirement and thus had insufficient time to approach Government or other sponsors to cater for this part of the expense.
It all begs the question why, for instance, COSAFA would appear to weathering the storm and running multiple competitions on an annual basis while CECAFA seems to be bumbling along in fits and starts of its competitions.
What is COSAFA SG Sue Destombes doing right that CECAFA SG Nicholas Musonye seems unable to fathom?
Could it be that because Sue is Mzungu (white) that her work ethic and values transcend those of the hapless Musonye? Is Musonye either too rigid or shortsighted to run an organization that requires flexibility and an understanding of the landscape?
What is clear though, is that CAF has turned these zonal unions into political voting machines for the perpetuation of power, driven mainly by the mentality of the FA Presidents of the member countries.
Within CECAFA, lies the epicenter of the feared “Muslim brotherhood” of CAF, a coming together of the FA Presidents of CAF that profess the Islamic faith and who find it politically expedient to vote as a bloc.
Just last year, the dossier presented to the FIFA Ethics committee shows shocking details of how CAF President Ahmad took at least 15 of these FA Presidents to the Umrah in Saudia Arabia and asked CAF to cover the expenses.
In CECAFA, the group comprises the likes of FA Presidents of Eritrea, Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia.
Djibouti FA President Souleiman Waberi is the chief whip for Ahmad’s political interests in the region, based on his stature as CAF Exco member and Chairman of the powerful Referees committee within CAF.
Within CECAFA also there is the known division between the “fresh and younger” FA Presidents like Kenya’s Nick Mwendwa and Uganda’s Moses Magogo who wished to effect a coup on the old geezers currently at the political helm of the organization.
Nick Mwendwa in particular, was running his own little sideshow trying to eject his Kenyan compatriot Nicholas Musonye from the position of SG, with a view to installing another Kenyan, Patrick Onyango, who was at some point a deputy FIFA Development officer at the Gaborone office before the staff were sent on their merry way by the Gianni Infantino wash out.
How then can CECAFA work as a single unit when it is politically pulling in different directions? The political leaders of CECAFA only seem to align when it comes to time for voting at CAF and FIFA, motivated entirely by the prospect of the omni-present “brown envelopes”.
This was evident in April this year during the finals of the CAF U-17 AFCON in Tanzania when all the 12 CECAFA FA members were herded into a 5 star hotel by Ahmad, his lieutenant Fouzi Lekjaa to be “convinced” on how to vote or whom to support when the time came.
COSAFA on the other hand, seem to handle their political affairs with a modicum of maturity which apparently doesn’t affect their vision.
During the vote for a replacement for the seat left vacant by Ghanian Kwesi Nyantakyi on the FIFA Council, COSAFA was faced by the prospect of 2 candidates from the Union eyeing the position namely, Walter Nyamilandu of Malawi and Dr. Danny Jordaan of South Africa.
In a mature manner, COSAFA FA Presidents decided to have a mini-vote wherein it appeared that majority of them favored the elevation of Dr. Jordaan to the FIFA Council and a clear statement of what they really thought about their colleague Nyamilandu.
However, the September 2018 vote carried out in Sharm Al Sheikh in Egypt turned out differently, with the treacherous CECAFA FA Presidents, the Francophone bloc and the Muslim brotherhood were deployed by Ahmad to devastating effect, and to ensure that Nyamilandu won the vote.
In general though, COSAFA appear to work harmoniously between the political arm and the secretariat, where the funds obtained from FIFA, CAF and sponsors are applied to their competitions.
CECAFA, not so much, with every single tournament or competition being an avenue for FA Presidents and their hangers-on to revel in the largesse of available funds. At no point does CECAFA have reserves in their bank accounts, which they can later utilize during lean financial times like these. They are instead forced to ask their members and guests to fork out more money to run their competitions as though they are hosting prestige competitions!
What we now know of CECAFA is that there is a serious culture of impunity and lack of seriousness which is a reflection of the mindset of the FA Presidents of member countries.
With an election of the CECAFA Executive committee imminent, we can only hope that a combination of Wallace Karia (Tanzania) and Francis Paul (South Sudan) would help to alter the organizational malaise of their colleagues, some of whom may be too set in their ways to change…
Because for sure, these two gentlemen are football neophytes by comparison…