ZANZIBAR’S international footballers can start planning how to construct their own homes, the biggest obstacle having been taken care of when the country’s President Dr Ali Mohammed Shein awarded them land on which to build.
President Shein was congratulating the team and its management — totaling 32 persons — for reaching this year’s Final of the Cecafa Challenge Cup where they were piped by Kenya on post-match penalties (3-2) after tying 2-2 in normal and extra-time, in Machakos, Kenya on December 17.
It was only the second time that Zanzibar were reaching the Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) Challenge Cup Final, the only past feat being when they had outright victory over hosts Uganda in 1995.
President Shein said: “I congratulate all the players and their managers and will reward them with TSh 3 million (Kenya shillings 135,000 or $1,350) each. I will also give each plot whey they can build (houses)”. Then the President led a cheer to the team: “Zanzibar Heroes, hoyee!”
After their Cup Final win over Zanzibar, the Kenya national team, Harambee Stars, also became instant heroes in their country, congratulations ringing out from around the country and cash awards of millions of shillings coming from among others Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto who witnessed the team outlast Zanzibar at Kenyatta Stadium.
Ironically, due to a hostile environment among most football association (FA) leaders in Cecafa region; minding about leadership power struggles rather than actual football, the region had gone for nearly two years with no football competition.
The return of the Cecafa activity and the passion it ignited in especially Kenya and Zanzibar had Cecafa Secretary General, Nicholas Musonye, terming the earlier prevailing circumstance as “ruinous”. While accepting congratulations over the return of Cecafa competition, he said it was up to the populace in the Cecafa region to hold their football leaders accountable to “good governance and focus on sustainable development programmes.”
He said he was not surprised by the response by the countries that did well in this year’s Challenge Cup, in particular Kenya and Zanzibar and told them: “Each success has its rewards …” He said the benefits of Cecafa football was to “players, coaches, managers, business people and governments which wish to unite people.
“But people in football can only be appreciated when they are playing football, not useless politics. Now Kenyans and Zanzibaris can see what Wananchi appreciate … football action. And they will reward you when you entertain them and bring them hope. ”
Musonye said Cecafa will have a full competition programme in 2018 including:
- Under-17 Championships (in Burundi and Tanzania)
- Women Championship (Uganda)
- Beach Football Championship (Uganda)
- Cecafa Kagame Cup Club Championship (Djibouti)
- Cecafa Challenge Cup (again in Kenya)
The success of this year’s Challenge Cup, hastily convened by Kenya and largely by the drive of Football Kenya Federation (FKF), Kenya’s Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts (MOSCA) and the county governments of Kakamega, Machakos and Kisumu, had hope reverberating through the region that Cecafa football activity would not stall again.
Musonye said the tournament was, “Great stuff … enjoyable to spectators, players, sponsoring partners and the great Governments of Kenya, Kakamega, Kisumu and Machakos. When people are happy and united through sport, it is lovely; little children — some babies in fact — so happy alongside “big” people and politicians like the Deputy President of Kenya.”
Azam TV, a relatively young business in the region but already with stakes in premier league football in Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, also clearly shook up the scene instantly revitalising soccer passion in Kenya. Azam’s production and match commentary in both Kiswahili and English languages was adjudged as gripping by the millions who followed on Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC). Azam, a pay TV firm is present in Kenya and seeking to grow their market.
Sports Director Patrick Kahemele said Azam was “committed to co-operations with our sporting partners and Cecafa are key in our business in the coming two years of a contract recently signed. We want to share experiences and grow our businesses together.
“Our local (Cecafa region) sport is not hopeless. We shall be trying to make it lucrative for everyone — sportsmen and organizations — and of course Azam TV wants to be in a commercially viable venture.”
The Azam TV officials said they were looking forward to Cecafa’s most immediate competition beginning early in the year and the rest during the year. They (Azam) and even the Zanzibari football authorities, however quickly rooted for a change to the Cecafa programme; by first taking the Kagame Cup club competition to Zanzibar.
The Azam Sports Director (Kahemele) said: “We have just come in and obviously we’d like to first take our production to countries that are easier for us to operate. Currently Djibouti would be of logistical difficulties. Hopefully, we and the Cecafa Exco will be working on a calendar convenient and most considerate to both parties. For now, Zanzibar would be a wonderful idea as host. There are new businesses, including in hotels and real estate there that would be glad to partner with Cecafa and Azam.
“The Zanzibar President, Dr Ali Mohamed Shein is also very supportive of football teams in the country. Their performance at this year’s Challenge Cup was wonderful and commendable and I think President Shein was prominent in congratulating and supporting the Zanzibar heroes.”
Cecafa President Dr Mutasim Gafar (of Sudan) was present in Kakamega and Machakos with, including his new instituted members of the Cecafa Executive Committee ; Vice-President Abulqani Said Arab (Somalia Football Association President), Wallace Karia (President of Tanzania Football Federation), Doris Petra (Vice-President FKF), Amiable Habimana (vice-President Burundi Football Federation).
-Additional reporting by Correspondents and Agencies