It is all systems go as Kenya braces herself to host the 2017 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup at Kakamega, Kisumu and Nakuru, with Machakos and Nairobi being stand-by venues.
It is my observation that the regional tournament scheduled to begin on November 25 will not only accord our local players an opportunity to showcase their talent at a higher level, but will also have immense socio-economic impact on Kenya through sustainable benefits generated before, during and after the two-week event.
Further, coming hot on the heels of a fiercely-contested presidential election, the tournament will provide the much needed platform to unite Kenyans regardless of their political affiliations and epitomise a national branding opportunity, key in marketing a country that spent a good chunk of the year politicking.
It goes without saying that if well managed, Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup has the full potential to not only re-galvanise Kenyan fans but to also shape perceptions and change mindsets of thousands of visitors who will grace the tournament, most of whom are sceptical about the country due to the current political situation, which, I must say, played a key role in Caf’s decision to withdraw Kenya’s hosting rights for 2018 African Nations Championships (Chan).
In addition, with football being the most followed sport not only in Kenya but also world over, I believe the tournament will provide a rare window of opportunity to create a positive correlation between the sport and nationalism, occasioned by increased civic pride and community empowerment as stakeholders indulge in contributing and supporting not only our national football team Harambee Stars but also the successful hosting of the tournament.
That notwithstanding is that as a country, we now also have a chance to gauge and position ourselves as being capable of hosting not only regional but also continental and global tournaments.
In this perspective, it is my belief that Kenya is also most likely to experience increased number of higher quality football development programmes both at the top and grass-root level occasioned by a changed mindset as a result of increased civic pride, community empowerment and new skills and training obtained by those involved in delivering the event.
Perhaps it will be the swaying of minds, the opportunity to unite the country through football and the ability of Harambee Stars to hold its own against other nations, coupled with enhanced partnerships and greater commercial activities and investments undertaken before, during and after the tournament that will be the greatest achievements for Kenya in the tournament.
Barry Otieno is FKF’s Head of Communications [email protected]