Ever since Gor Mahia won the African Cup Winners Cup title in 1987, which could be compared to winning Europe’s UEFA Europa League, no other East African club has won any trophy on the continental stage. Tagged as the whipping boys of the continent, East African clubs have been performing very poorly rarely progressing far in African continental competitions. Sadly the poor run in the continental club stages also reflects on national football as Kenya again lost out on last year’s African Cup of Nations.
East African football analysts and football fans view lack of proper investment as the reason behind the poor performance. The region hasn’t been investing heavily in sports infrastructures, player development and tapping of talent. This has made it very difficult for football clubs in the region to compete with other clubs in Africa.
There are no proper football academies to tap young talent and the players are paid very poorly compared to their counterparts in other parts of the continent. Added to this is the continuing problem of internal wrangles, stagnation in club management, and lack of government support.
“ALL IS NOT LOST”
Speaking to The East African, Cecafa’s secretary Nicholas Musonye said that there has been a general improvement in performance of clubs in the region in the recent past but it has to be sustained. “All is not lost”, said Musonye, “but we need to strengthen our leagues and also invest in player development.”
If we look at the top African clubs in the continent like DRC’s TP Mazembe (who even reached the finals of the Club World Cup in 2011 where they lost to Inter Milan) and most of the North African clubs, a lot of investments have been put into such clubs. They have proper academies for bringing up young talent and their players are one of the best paid in Africa, with Egyptian clubs almost matching some of the clubs in Europe in terms of player remuneration.
KENYAN FOOTBALL – LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL?
Though Kenyan clubs have been poor in the continental scene we have seen some improvement in East Africa where football is concerned as nations are beginning to emulate some of their African counterparts. Rwanda, have invested in facilities and a number of youth academies. This has bared fruit as Rwanda’s Under-17 team became the first African team to qualify for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup which shocked the world.
In Kenya we have seen a step up in investment with more sponsors coming up to support clubs and football in the country, examples being AFC Leopards (Mumias Sugar) and Gor Mahia (Tuzo). After years of stagnation and mismanagement, the Kenyan Premier League even received a boost when it secured a deal with Super Sport worth $5.5million which would enhance to a further $16.5 million up to 2016 to develop the league into a local brand.
Similar progress has also been witnessed in Uganda as the Ugandan League secured a deal with the local Uganda Telecoms in a bid to develop football in the land of matoke and improve its profitability. Large investments in Tanzania have seen the creation of a 60,000-seater National Stadium, improved football infrastructure and state of the art training facilities.
Such efforts give hope to the Forum and football-loving East Africans at large that though it may take a while for us to see the fruits, East African clubs could soon match their brothers in the other parts of the continent even in national football.