The 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations, Egypt, has proven to be a successful edition of the tournament so far. From the spectacular opening ceremony in Cairo and the exciting group-stage match ups to the late twists and drama in the knockout stage, the tournament has certainly provided African fanatics and supporters alike with quality entertainment.
The East African contingent in Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania made competition history as they all qualified together for the first time since the tournament’s inception. It would be foolish therefore to ignore the fact that football in the East is growing. However, as was witnessed in the group stages, football in the East is still far below the level of the North and West African counterparts.
Kenya and Tanzania were well out of their depth when pitted against tournament favourites Senegal and Algeria. It was no surprise that they were both eliminated in the group stage. Burundi put up an overall spirited performance in their group but they suffered the same fate. Uganda navigated their way out of the group stage but were subsequently knocked out by Senegal in the first knockout round. While the players and coaching staff should rightly be congratulated for their efforts, one cannot help but wonder if East African football will ever dominate the African football scene.
What can East African teams (clubs and countries) do to effectively compete in the upper echelons of African football? What role as fans do we play in the search for change in our game? What of our football federations? Our education systems? Our football academies? Our local coaches? Parents and teachers? Politics? Are any of these conducive for the growth football in our respective localities?
Is it acceptable to point our fingers at honest, hardworking individuals for our failure when our collective philosophy on the game is wrong to begin with? For how long will we continue to ignore that the socio-economic and political conditions we place in our society only sets up our sportspeople for failure? Will we actually push for change or will we forever remain in the footnotes of African football? Will we live long enough to see the sun rise on East African football?