Africa Cup of Nations
Africa Cup of Nations

It will be a do or die assignment for several teams as the final qualification tournaments are held this weekend across the continent for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Kenya’s head coach Sebastian Migne said on Wednesday that with the Harambee Stars having already secured qualification, they will use the tie against Ghana as a build-up for the AFCON finals, which starts in Egypt from June 15 to July 13.

“The match in Accra is good for the team to jell and focus on team structure. What is important is to secure support from the government and pay up our training venue in France,” said the coach.

“I need the help of all stakeholders. Harambee Stars need better preparations. We have secured a training venue in France and we may end up losing the opportunity because some other teams also want that facility. Senegal are ready to pay for it even today. It will be very bad if we don’t pay and secure it,” he said.

Kenya and Uganda have already qualified together with Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Morocco, Nigeria, Mali, Guinea, Algeria, Madagascar, Mauritania, Ivory Coast, and Ghana.

Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania are also a win or draw away from joining their east African colleagues.

It is a major boost for the east Africa countries who will be pushing to punch above their weight in a superiority battle in their quest to claim the Africa Cup of Nations.

The final qualification tournament will be on Saturday across Africa with up to ten slots up for grabs.

A lot of excitement is expected, especially from debutants Mauritania and Madagascar, who have qualified for Africa Cup of Nations finals for the first time in their history.

However, increasing the number of finalists from 16 has already had an impact with former whipping boys Madagascar and Mauritania qualifying for the first time. But former champions Zambia are among the giants that will miss out.

Council of East and Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA) says the region has failed to use it economic power to develop football or host the continent’s biggest football showpiece, the Africa Cup Nations (AFCON).

West and North Africa have dominated the football fiesta and Nicholas Musonye wants the east to bid to stage the tournament, in a bid to boost the development of the sport in the region.

“Where are the East Africa candidates,” said Musonye.

“We have had this tournament many a time in West or North Africa. Southern Africa has also had its share with South Africa. But East Africa has been left out, not because they present weak bids, no country in the region has shown interest to stage the competition,” Musonye said in Nairobi.

Early this year, Confederation of African Football (CAF) awarded Egypt the rights to stage the 2019 tournament in June, replacing Cameroon, which failed to meet organization demands, forcing the continental body to strip it of the rights to stage the continent’s top football tournament.

It was the fourth successive time Africa’s top football tournament has had to change host country at the last minute.

In just over two decades CAF has made six last minute changes to host of its premier competition, the Africa Cup of Nations.

Cameroon, who lost the rights to stage the 2019 edition, the first to be staged in July away from the traditional January period, becomes the seventh country to be stripped of the organizational honor.

In 1996, all eyes were on Kenya to return to the Africa Cup of Nations albeit as hosts. But they lost the hosting right to South Africa because the country was not ready.

“Kenya we are always jokers in regards to sports. We don’t give it the right support. We have no structures to help budding players get through to the international scene. What we have is individual brilliance and a few corporates helping through their CSR and welfare,” said Musonye.

“This needs to change and look at football and other sports as a crucial industry, through which the youth can have a lifeline.”

No wonder that prior to 1996, Kenya’s Harambee Stars had qualified for AFCON three times in a row in 1988, 1990 and 1992. After this it stayed out until 2004 in Tunisia.

From there it has been agonizing 15 years. A period the country has learnt the value of sport and seen President Uhuru Kenyatta’s regime come in strong to revamp the industry.

As the country celebrate the return of Harambee Stars to the AFCON, their journey now has a set destiny as they plan to stage build up matches in Europe, and only fly in to Egypt in June for the tournament.

The change is dates for the tournament from Jan/Feb to June/July is good news for European teams since they will not lose players participating in the tournament from the hectic leagues.

But the huge number offers organizational challenges, which however, Egypt will have to overcome. CAF has said the 24 teams will be drawn into six groups of four teams each.

The teams in each group will then play in a single round robin format, and after the group stage, the top two teams and the four best third teams will advance to the round of 16. Enditem

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