Arusha, Tanzania will come alive as the 18th edition of the East Africa Secondary Schools Games gets underway on Friday afternoon at the Sheikh Abeid Stadium.
Various secondary schools from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zanzibar and debutants Malawi will battle for honours in 14 disciplines over the next nine days across different venues in Arusha. South Sudan will once again not feature having last taken part in the 2017 showpiece in Gulu, Uganda.
Defending champions Kenya will be represented by 629 students as they look to extend their supremacy of having won 16 out of the last 17 editions. Uganda won the team title in 2014, the last time the games were held in Tanzania.
They have the biggest contingent with 855 students, while hosts Tanzania will field 625 students for the annual showpiece. Rwanda and Burundi have 310 and 224 students with Zanzibar fielding 86 students. Malawi who will field a team in football and netball, will have 30 students in Tanzania.
Organisers, the Federation of East Africa Secondary Schools Sports Association (Feasssa) are impressed with the huge turnout especially after only three countries - Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda took part in last year’s edition held in Musanze, Rwanda.
“It is wonderful to get such huge numbers and we expect to have stiff competition in the games,” Feasssa secretary general David Ngugi said.
The Kenyan contingent was due to arrive in Arusha on Thursday evening after leaving Kajiado in the morning where they had assembled for two days. The opening ceremony is set to be held at the Sheikh Abeid Stadium followed by the only match of the day as Kenyan champions St Anthony’s Boys Kitale take on home side Lindi Secondary School in their pool 'A' opener.
The rest of the games will commence on Friday and run till August 24. St Anthony’s will be hoping for a good start as they make a return to the competition having missed out last year. In 2017, they failed to go past the preliminary stage in their last appearance at this stage.
They are one of two Kenyan schools to have won the boys’ football title which has been dominated by Uganda’s St Mary’s Kitende, who have won the title a record 12 times. Siaya County’s Barding High School won the crown in 2016 when the games were held in Eldoret following a 1-0 win over Kitende.