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Cecafa Kagame Cup record entry; Africa’s giant clubs join is as DR Congo seeks to be part of East Africa

2019 CECAFA KAGAME CUP CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP

(Rwanda 6-21 July)

GROUP ‘A’KIGALI: Rayon Sports (Rwanda), TP Mazembe (DR Congo, Kinshasa), Kinondoni Municipal Council (Tanzania), Atlabara (South Sudan)

GROUP ‘B’HUYE: Azam (Defending champions, Tanzania), Mukura Victory (Rwanda), Bandari (Kenya), Kampala Capital City Authority (Uganda)

GROUP ‘C’KIGALI: APR (Rwanda), Green Buffaloes (Zambia), Proline (Uganda), Heegan (Somalia)

GROUP ‘D’RUBAVU: Gor Mahia (Kenya), DC Motema Pembe (DR Congo Kinshasa) KMKM (Zanzibar), AS Ports (Djibouti)

  • Eight of 12 Cecafa countries competing: 1 Djibouti, 2 Kenya, 3 Rwanda, 4 Somalia, 5 South Sudan, 6 Tanzania, 7 Uganda, 8 Zanzibar
  • Missing Cecafa countries: 1 Burundi, 2 Eritrea, 3 Ethiopia, 4 Sudan
  • Guests: 1 Democratic Republic of Congo – Kinshasa, 2 Zambia

NEW President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi is making a diplomatic push for his country to be accepted as a member of the East African Community. The lobbying foray included recent meetings with Tanzania President John Magufuli and Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta. But, even before political negotiation begin in earnest, football may prove an influencing tool to integrate DRC in the region and two of her greatest football clubs, (Tout Puissant) TP Mazembe and (Daring Club) DC Motema Pembe are set to take part in the regional soccer club championship.

The Congolese clubs are among a record 16 to take part in the Kagame Cup club championship organised by Cecafa (Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations) in Rwanda between July 6 and 21.

Top: Shaaban Idd Chilunda (right) of Azam scores at the Cecafa Kagame Cup tournament in Dar es Salaam. Azam, above, celebrate another Kagame Cup goal. They will be the defending champions when the tournament takes place in Rwanda, July 6-21, 2019

Top: Shaaban Idd Chilunda (right) of Azam scores at the Cecafa Kagame Cup tournament in Dar es Salaam. Azam, above, celebrate another Kagame Cup goal. They will be the defending champions when the tournament takes place in Rwanda, July 6-21, 2019

The five-time African champions TP Mazembe of Lubumbashi will be an exciting draw in this year’s Kagame Cup alongside huge rivals from the DR capital, Kinshasa, DC Motema Pembe, 12-time champions of Congo and Africa Cup Winners Cup holders 1994.

The Cecafa secretary general Nicholas Musonye said in Kigali on Friday that parading 16 teams in the Kagame Cup will be historic: “We wish to thank our television broadcast partners Azam TV [of Tanzania] and the Government of Rwanda for supporting the event. The matches will be shown ‘live’ by Azam TV.”

Five-time champions of Africa, TP Mazembe of Lubumbashi, DR Congo, will be making their second visit to the Cecafa Kagame Cup tournament

Five-time champions of Africa, TP Mazembe of Lubumbashi, DR Congo, will be making their second visit to the Cecafa Kagame Cup tournament

He added: “Cecafa takes the opportunity to thank our Patron, His Excellency President Paul Kagame and the people of Rwanda for standing with us for the last 20 years. We also express our gratitude to HE the President for enabling Rwanda to have enough infrastructure to host a tournament of this magnitude.”

Musonye said that in the spirit of sharing Rwanda’s liberation struggle and creating a prosperous and harmonious nation, Cecafa together with the Rwanda football federation (FERWAFA) have spread this year’s competition to three venues across Rwanda — Kigali, Huye, Rubavu — so that people in rural areas can enjoy the event.

Rayon Sport of Kigali, one of the three entries in the Kagame Cup hosted in their country

Rayon Sport of Kigali, one of the three entries in the Kagame Cup hosted in their country

Musonye added: “Cecafa also recognises the efforts of President Kagame to create a peaceful environment within the region that has seen clubs from Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia take part in this special competition. Many clubs from across Africa have requested to take part in this event but we have restricted the numbers.”

With ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) which kicked off in Egypt on Friday night and with four East African region teams taking part — Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – regional players, like in the rest of the world, will start getting used to a busy professional programme as Cecafa hosts in the same period the Kagame Cup followed by the Cecafa (boys’) U15 Championship in Eritrea between August 16 and September 1 2019.

President John Pombe Magufuli (right) welcomes President Felix Tshisekedi (second from right) in Dar es Salaam when the DR Congo leader called seeking support for co-operation with East African Community members

President John Pombe Magufuli (right) welcomes President Felix Tshisekedi (second from right) in Dar es Salaam when the DR Congo leader called seeking support for co-operation with East African Community members

Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of Congo has applied to join the East African Community in a move that could potentially expand the boundaries of the trading bloc to the Atlantic Coast of Africa. And that goes also for sporting ties, especially football, East Africans mingling with one of the continent’s most blessed nations with soccer talent.

The DRC application comes following months of talks between its President Tshisekedi and Rwanda’s Kagame, who chairs the East African Community. Sources familiar with the diplomatic talks that preceded the formal application say most EAC member states are enthusiastic about DR Congo’s membership.

Secretary general of Cecafa, Nicholas Musonye (second from left) will local organisers at one of the venues of this year’s Kagame Cup tournament in Rwanda

Secretary general of Cecafa, Nicholas Musonye (second from left) will local organisers at one of the venues of this year’s Kagame Cup tournament in Rwanda

The DRC officially communicated its intention to join the EAC in a letter to President Kagame dated June 8. Kinshasa said its desire to join the bloc was informed by its increasing trade ties with the region. In response, President Kagame directed the EAC Secretariat to table DR Congo’s application for discussion at the next Heads of State Summit in November.

The potential membership of the Central African country is being viewed as a game-changer, given its natural resources wealth and a huge consumer market of 81 million people. It is the world’s biggest producer of cobalt, a major component in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles, and Africa’s main copper producer. It also a major producer of gold, diamonds, uranium, coltan, oil and other precious metals, making it one of the most resource-rich countries in the world.

DR Congo is also host to the world’s second-longest river, the Congo, vast swathes of fertile soil, potentially making it one of the biggest agricultural producers in the world. DR Congo’s membership in the EAC, if fast-tracked and fully integrated through key infrastructure, also portends a timely pillar not only for the region but also for the bigger Africa Continental Free Trade Area.

-Additional reporting by Correspondents and Agencies

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