After weeks of anticipation, Africa’s oldest annual football tournament is finally here.
Over the next fortnight, ardent football fans in the country will - starting Sunday afternoon - be treated to some sumptuous dose of entertainment from nine national teams competing in the 2017 Senior Challenge Cup organised by the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa).
Kenya face Rwanda at the Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega Sunday in the first of the 20 matches lined up, in a game that will certainly be followed closely by the competing teams such as record holders Uganda, neighbours Tanzania, seasoned Rwanda and guest side Libya.
Others taking part are South Sudan, Burundi and Ethiopia. Zimbabwe, Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia opted to stay for various reasons.
“I am telling our fans in the country that they have a chance to witness first hand the future generation of football stars from the region in this competition,” Cecafa secretary Nicholas Musonye explained.
“For instance, Uganda, Rwanda and Libya have brought the teams that will play at Chan next month, but I can see Kenya are looking hungry for this title. This has all the hallmarks of an exciting championship.”
Some of the star players Musonye could be referring to include Uganda’s creative midfielder Tom Masiko, Tanzanian forward Elias Maghuli and Rwandan defender Manzi Thierry alongside Burundian hot shot Laudvit Mavugo and Kenya’s vastly improved forward Masoud Juma.
“I want to win the top scorer’s award here. This feat will make it easier for my agent who is trying to find me a club in Europe,” Juma, who scooped the SportPesa Premier League Goldon Boot this season, said.
On paper, north African guests Libya - who were expected in the country Saturday evening alongside six-time champions Kenya plus Uganda - who have claimed the overall title 13 times since its inauguration back in 1926, look favourites to go all the way in this Sh6 million prize tourney.
Don’t rule out the likes of Rwanda, who are managed by former Kenya coach Antoine Hey and Burundi with South Africa-based ex-Sofapaka striker Abdul Razak Fiston in their ranks.
Matches have been lined up in Kisumu, Kakamega, Machakos, and Mumias.
The tournament returns after a two-year hiatus amid reports the break was occasioned by cash flow problems and bad politics between the various FA presidents of the Council.
Kenyans will also be hoping the disorganization, infighting, and embarrassments, including teams being locked up in their hotels over non-payment of bills will not occur.