By: ISAAC SWILA
After a poor run at the international level Kenya’s Harambee Stars will seek solace in the 38th edition of the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) Senior Challenge Cup that kicks off on Saturday in Addis Ababa.
Stars, bundled out of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in the second round by Cape Verde, head to Ethiopia as defending champions intent on returning home with the trophy to make up for their year’s disappointments.
Kenya open their campaign against solid Uganda on Sunday in this 12-nation regional affair.
The stars are in Group B together with Uganda Cranes, Burundi and Zanzibar.
The two-week annual tournament failed to take place last year following Ethiopia’s last minute withdrawal as hosts citing lack of funds.
Burundi will kick off the competition when they line up against Zanzibar in a Group B match from 2pm at the multi-purpose 35,000-seater, Yidnekachew Tessema Stadium in Addis Ababa before host Ethiopia welcome Rwanda’s Amavubi at the same venue from 4pm.
Malawi, who are placed in Group C alongside Sudan, South Sudan and Djibouti, are a guest team.
The regional football fete will also be staged in the cities of Bahir Dar and Awassa.
The quarter-finals, semis and the final will all be held in the capital Addis.
WON IN NAIROBI
Kenya won the 37th edition held in Nairobi in 2013, beating Sudan’s Falcons of Jediane 2-0 at the Nyayo National Stadium.
Striker Allan Wanga, who was the field captain then, scored both goals and is once again expected to lead the strike force as Gor Mahia’s striker Michael Olunga is a doubt for the competition.
Stars head into this competition in the wake of a calamitous exit from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers losing 2-1 to Cape Verde on aggregate thanks to shambolic preparations.
Stars have won the regional crown six times, in 1975, 1981, 1982, 1983, 2002 and 2013.
Two top teams from each group plus the best two third place finishers will qualify for the quarter-finals.
Burundi v Zanzibar 2pm
Ethiopia v Rwanda 4pm
Somalia v Tanzania 2pm
Kenya v Uganda 4pm
Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania
Kenya, Uganda, Zanzibar, Burundi
Sudan, South Sudan, Malawi, Djibouti
SOURCE: DAILY NATION