Today marks a new beginning in the life of East and Central African Football. CECAFA’S newly introduced football competition The Nile Basin Cup (Don’t confuse with the Nile Basin Tournament held in Egypt in 2011) kicks off later today in Sudan.
A slight and better definition for those who might not understand, basically would be, the Nile Basin Cup is a competition meant for the Cup Winners of CECAFA member countries; what preferably the CAF Confederations compares to the CAF Champions League, in this case the Champions League being directly equated to the Kagame Inter Club Cup.
Thanks to withdrawals and snubs by some clubs- this maiden competition will only feature a total of eleven teams, five short of the total number expected.
Like every other football fan, new tournaments bring with them some level of scepticism, expectation and at the same time excitement for the unknown.
Second rate as it may want to look in our eyes, do not be cheated; East Africa has some really good names to bring to the table. The common names and mighty giants might be missing, perhaps a testament of the unpredictable Nature of Cup Competitions- it conceivably could be, the CAF Confederations Cup has been a good hunting ground for them in the ongoing season, the latter certainly holds less truth over the former as you shall come to learn.
To hold testament to the need for a competition like this; in its maiden season in Ligi Kuu Bara (Tanzania Premier League), Mbeya City for finishing third might have never ever had a chance to compete beyond its borders taking into account the dominance of Yanga, Simba and now Azam. Formed almost the same time as them is Victoria University FC from Kampala whose maiden CAF Confederations Cup might have not gone the way they wanted, must be glad to face the mighty Al Merreikh in the group stages.
Keeping them company as teams that have never made the Champions League leave alone the CAF Confederations Cup, Dkhill FC will too have a chance to shine in the spotlight having had to deal with the dominance of Ali Sabieh and AS Port over the last six years or so in Djibouti.
An amazing eight out of the total will have some continental action experience to bank on with the latest entrants into this roll of honour being Enticelles (Rwanda) and Academic Techite (Burundi).
Having returned for the first time in the CAF Confederations Cup and being eliminated by AFC Leopards of Kenya, Defense FC of Ethiopia will fancy their chances in hope of another chance for a repeat on a neutral ground. Ethiopia have in the recent past dazzled Africa with their perfomances, almost earned a World Cup place, enjoyed the AFCON last year- but now can they mark a blue print on a much lesser stage in the shape of a club?
You got to feel excited for Malakia FC; history beckons on several fronts. Having just witnessed their federation attain FIFA Membership status not so long ago, the newest CAF Confederation Cup team might have lost in the preliminary rounds but two outings in fewer than three months certainly raises their profile and that of South Sudan.
Looking at the above names and the pedigree that comes with most of them, a mixture of inexperience, familiarity and non-familiarity coupled by the need for a maiden name on a silverware- football surely wouldn’t disappoint.
However amidst all the glamour and glee, the outcome of having an extra tournament will be the greatest test for CECAFA. Having pulled off the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup, The Kagame Inter Club Cup severally, questions have been raised over the standards of club football in East Africa.
CECAFA Secretary General Nicholas Musonye at the launch of this tourney noted that “The region needs as many competitions as possible to strengthen the Cecafa clubs and give them a competitive edge at the continental stage.”
The DRC and Egypt have since withdrawn their clubs that were to take place in this competition- perhaps a need for food of thought; taking into account these two countries have had some significant success in the continental stage over the recent past.
Every good story has a beginning; so before expectations grip in, scepticism grows louder or disappears into a foray of excitement and the pundits bash or praise this tournament’s definition of CECAFA football, join me alongside others in welcoming the newest Club Competition on this side of the Sahara.
Here are the Groups;
Group A: Al Merreikh (Sudan), Victoria University (Uganda), Malakia (South Sudan) and Police (Zanzibar)
Group B: AFC Leopards (Kenya), Mbeya City (Tanzania), Academie Tchite (Burundi) and Entincelles (Rwanda)
Group C: Al-Shandy (Sudan), Defence (Ethiopia) and Dkhill FC (Djibouti)