Defending Champions Kenya defeated 2017 runners up Zanzibar, 1-0 to confirm their top spot in Group B, while Zanzibar bows out of the 2019 CECAFA, as they needed a win and hope that results elsewhere go their way in order to progress.
Zanzibar head coach Ali Hemed Suleiman has put his team’s lacklustre performance at the 2019 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup down to complacency and a lack of determination from his players.
Zanzibar who were the runners up of the tournament’s previous edition in 2017, made clear their intentions of going one better and emerging victors in 2019.
They, of course, are no strangers to winning in Uganda, as they were victors in the 1994 edition, and they finished third in both the last two tournaments held in Kampala in 2009 and 2012.
But in 2019, they bow out without winning a game, losing twice against Tanzania (1-0) and against Kenya, a game they needed to win if they stood any chance of progress. They accumulated just one point, against Sudan in what was their first game.
“We were nowhere near the level we were at in 2017. We struggled throughout all the games, but I think my players were not up to it this year,” Hemed Suleiman told Football-256.
“When we reached the finals, the players were hungry and determined, but this year it looked as though they were satisfied, and many of them didn’t take up to the instructions that well,” He said
“I think the bigger challenge was because most of these players play their club football in mainland Tanzania, there is a stack difference of the culture of football between the mainland and Zanzibar,” He added.
The challenge for Zanzibar could be even bigger than what the players can offer. The nation is an annex to Tanzania and competes under the nation for the AFCON, World Cup and the Olympics.
This makes it hard for the coach to assemble a national team for a friendly match or at least two weeks of training. The only time he can do that is when they are preparing for the CECAFA championships, and Hemed acknowledges this has cost them as they had little time to work with the players.
“For the major tournament, we compete under Tanzania, this means that we only get to work with these players before the CECAFA, and it’s 2 years since we last played the championships,” he said.
“And two years in football is a long time. To go such a long time minus having any organized friendlies or training camps, and then you come together for two weeks before the CECAFA makes it hard to compete as a team.”
“And that was visible with the understanding of the tactics and commitment levels shown on the pitch.” Hemed continued.
On a positive note, Kenya who had already sealed their progress into the semi-finals of the tournament also consolidated top spot with the victory over Zanzibar.
They will play either Somalia or Eritrea in the semis, depending on who progresses as second from Group A. But they may be without talisman Hassan Abdallah who was subbed off with an injury.
The Harambee Stars Assistant coach Zekediah Otieno said that he does not expect it to be a big injury that will keep the forward out for long and expects him to be around for the semi-finals.
“We have not had enough time to look at it and assess the extent of the injury, but at first look, it doesn’t look that serious, and I expect that he will be around for the semi-finals,” Otieno said.