Eastern Africa appears to be the only region unaware that 2010 is a football year on the continent. From the continental affair of Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) to the Fifa World Cup tournament, none of the countries that make up the region referred to as Eastern Africa, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, eastern Congo-Kinshasa is present at any of these events.
That Africa’s football is caught up in managerial crisis and inadequate facilities is obvious to many countries in Africa and thus this does not explain why the 11 time CECAFA champion of East Africa ‘Uganda’ is missing in action at the Africa Cup of Nations that is underway in Angola. It seems that this region has its own version of football that is unknown beyond the confines of Eastern Africa.
While West African countries parade their best players in tournaments such as the Under 17 World Cup or the Under 21 tournament Kenya and the rest of the Eastern Africa nations have become complete strangers to such events. Now the big question on many football fans is why Eastern Africa does not participate in continental and world football tournaments.
Kenya was once a darling of many as it brought home the feeling that Eastern Africa was not out of touch with the other countries. Now, football fans have deserted stadia for lack of quality football. But for a country like Kenya where football matters are run by a private limited liability company (Football Kenya Limited) and not a public body elected by the people (Kenya Football Federation), the only person who would expect it to play soccer is the one living in fantasy or miracle world. Kenya has failed to perform even on home soil.
While reminiscing on the good old days of “football-playing Kenya”, Kwendo Opanga, in Sunday Nation of January 10, 2010, attributes the rather impressive performance by Kenya’s Harrambee Stars at the 4th All Africa Games in Nairobi in 1987 to the rather competitive super league managed by the KFF. Back then, the Kenya football league was dominated by stronger and well run clubs such as Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, and Kenya Breweries, among other clubs that not only created a football mood in the country but ensured that players were at their best to earn a place in the national team.
Then politics reared its ugly head and football in Kenya got on its death bed. Since then the Kenya premier league has never been as competitive as it was in its hey days.
Suppose the situation in Kenya is reflective of the other Eastern Africa countries, then to have noteworthy players to show off at the various tournaments means that the governments of the respective countries must have some proper programmes in place to nurture football talent.
While there is budding talent among high school students, Kenya has no talent tapping programmes as a result of lack of youth development initiatives; most go unnoticed unless foreign bodies come to scout for talent. It has therefore become habitual for Kenya to wait for visitors to discover talent among her young people and then the national team that has no strategies in place to rely on jumps on them to propel the nation to fame. This is an impossible expectation as the individuals lack the team spirit and commitment to stand against teams such as Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Egypt that are deemed to be among Africa’s best.