The 2011 Cecafa Challenge Cup starts in Tanzania on November 24 putting Kenya’s Harambee Stars programme in a quandary because they will probably be unable to travel by then.
The Kenyan Premier League ends on November 26 and all 16 clubs will be involved in the season-closer. “It is a tight situation and the best we have done is to push Kenya’s opening game to as late as possible, but I am afraid that will probably have to be November 27, “ said Cecafa secretary general Nicholas Musonye in Nairobi on Tuesday.
The final will be on December 9, Tanzania’s Independence Day.
A Harambee Stars squad will, however, have had ample match preparation, arising from their intermittent regrouping to play international fixtures before the Challenge Cup. On October 8, they face Uganda in the final qualifier of the 2011 African Cup of Nations.
Then they must get ready for the preliminary round of the 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers. Harambee Stars’ first face Seychelles, away on November 11, before the return tie in Nairobi only four days later on November 15.
All Cecafa member countries, with the exception of higher ranked Uganda and Sudan, will be involved in the Africa Zone preliminary round qualifiers. Two of the match-ups involve Cecafa teams going head-to-head- Somalia v Ethiopia, who play their first match in Nairobi on November 11 and the return in Addis Ababa on November 15, and Eritrea and Rwanda who start in Asmara.
The other Cecafa nation matches are: Djibouti v Namibia and Lesotho v Burundi. Therefore, having played their last full internationals on November 15, the Cecafa-bound teams are expected to be in tip-top shape. Most, however, like Kenya, will still have to tackle the logistical issues of obtaining players from ongoing league schedules. But Musonye said that is now the norm in the modern football calendar.
“Everyone has to do proper planning, you can only carry out your programmes in the narrow gaps available. But I can assure you we shall have a highly competitive event. “Sudan (they play Ghana in Khartoum on October 8) have certainly qualified for the 2012 AFCON finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon next January and will be in Tanzania to prove how ready they are for Africa’s premier tournament.
Meanwhile,Harambee Stars players kicked off their 10 day training programme with 16 players in camp at the Mumias Sports Complex in Western Kenya ahead of their crucial African Cup of Nations qualifier against Uganda on October 8.
More players are expected to join the camp after this week league matches.
"We are still not full house because we have players stuck with their teams for the KPL matches. But this is an ideal location for us to finalise on our preparations before we go to Kampala,"said harambee stars coach Zedekiah Otieno.