Uncertainty rocks Cecafa competitions as Covid-19 bites on

The Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) is racing against time to have four tournaments held this year despite the Covid-19 impact on the regional bodies’ annual calendar.

With less than four months to go before the year 2020 ends, none of the annual tournaments has taken place, but Executive Director Auka Gecheo is determined to avoid an entirely quiet first year in office.

The Cecafa Kagame Cup, a club  championship bringing together league champions of  respective member countries, usually held in July hasn’t taken place this year owing to the Covid-19 scourge and it remains unclear if the other competitions, including the Senior Challenge Cup for men’s national teams will take place in December.

Gecheo took over the leadership of CECAFA in March 2020 after the exit of former Secretary General Nicholas Musonye, has had little to do with the Covid-19 pandemic stopping all sports activities in most of the member associations since then.

“The earliest anything meaningful can be done is around November to December, so hopefully we will have four tournaments this year; Senior Challenge, Kagame Cup and the two African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers for the Under-17 and Under-20 teams. Tanzania is set to host the Senior Challenge and the Club Championship with Rwanda and Sudan hosting the Under-17 and the Under-20 championships respectively,” Gacheo told Citizen Digital.

However, nothing has been sealed as to the dates when the competitions will be played, as monitoring of situations among the member associations especially the said hosts continues.

“We will have to wait and see how things go because we are in a very fluid environment and things change very rapidly.  Hopefully we will be able to stage the four competitions,” he said.

While Gecheo had undertaken to have the football calendars of respective member associations aligned from the onset, the varied responses to the pandemic within the members countries has made it impossible to realise the dream at least this year.

“Those are usual challenges of regional competitions, but with the pandemic it becomes more difficult to plan. When life is going on in Tanzania as usual, Rwanda has imposed very stringent lockdown directions. In Kenya, we’ve even designated our stadiums as Covid-19 recovery centres. As we wait to see when favourable changes can be effected, time is not on our side,” the former SuperSport East Africa General Manager said.

For example, Tanzania completed last season’s matches and the new season kicks-off on September 6, while Kenya is yet to announce the new season calendar.

The situation complicates efforts to secure sponsorship, although Tanzania’s Azam is committed to continue her partnership as a broadcast partner, according to Gecheo.

Uganda hosted last years’ Senior Challenge finals with the hosts clinching the title after beating Eritrea 3-0 in the final.