The 2019 CECAFA senior Challenge Cup kicksoff this Saturday in Kampala, with the hosts Uganda optimistic of registering title number 15, by the time it climaxes on December 19th.
The championship returns to Uganda seven years since it was last hosted in the Pearl of Africa.
Then the Cranes clinched their 13th title under Englishman Bobby Williamson who as well secured his fourth CECAFA title with Uganda.
The 2012 edition was the 36th edition of the competition with majority of the games held at the Mandela National Stadium, Namboole.
The knockout games were played at the StarTimes Stadium, Lugogo after Namboole’s playing surface was affected by heavy rains, it was then reserved for the final. The two venues will again play host to the 2019 edition.
Uganda Cranes were drawn in group A alongside rivals Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan who were playing in their first ever competitive tournament.
Group B consisted of Tanzania, Sudan, Burundi and Somalia while Rwanda, Zanzibar, Malawi and Eritrea made up Group C.
Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda topped their respective groups, with Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi coming second respectively. Zanzibar and Ethiopia were the third best placed teams.
The Cranes then played Ethiopia for the second time in the competition in the quarterfinals, comfortably coming out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Robert Ssentongo and Godfrey Baba Kizito.
Tanzania edged Rwanda 2-0; Mike Barasa’s goal helping Kenya go past Malawi with Zanzibar defeated Burundi 6-5 on penalties.
Uganda went ahead to keep their perfect defensive record intact, comprehensively beating Tanzania 3-0 in the semi-finals. Emmanuel Okwi opened the scoring before Ssentongo scored twice in the second half.
In the other semi-final, Kenya and Zanzibar played to a goalless draw, but Zanzibar failed to repeat the penalty shoot-out heroics as Abdallah Juma’s penalty sealed a 4-2 victory for the Harambee Stars.
In a closely contested final under floodlights at Namboole, Ssentongo was again on cue to hand Uganda the lead in the 28th minute.
With three minutes to play, second half substitute Paul Were set up Edwin Lavatsa to draw Kenya level, and breach Uganda’s rearguard for the first time in the tournament.
The game served the fans last minute action, Baba Kizito headed home the winner with just seconds to play till the final whistle.
Zanzibar were edged out on penalties for the second time in the tournament as Tanzania finished third with the former settling for fourth.
Brian Umony was voted the Most Valuable Player, while Hamza Muwonge scooped the Golden glove award.
Ssentongo’s three goals in the knock-out rounds were not enough to get him the top scorer’s accolade, sharing it with Tanzania’s duo John Bocco and Mrisho Ngasa who all netted five.
Fast forward to 2019, Uganda Cranes under Jonathan McKinstry who has also lost a final against Uganda in 2015 will be looking at adding CECAFA gold to his medal collection.
The 2019 edition will see only nine teams compete for top honours, after Rwanda, South Sudan and Ethiopia all withdrew from the tournament. While guests DR Congo have also decided against participating.
The Cranes have been drawn in Group A, alongside Burundi, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea. They shall play their opening game against Burundi on Saturday.