Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania to fly Cecafa flag

By Rodgers Eshitemi: Tuesday, March 26th 2019 at 01:10 GMT +3 | Football
Harambee Stars players acknowledge fans' cheers before match kickoff against Ghana during African Cup of Nations Qualifier match at Moi Sports Centre Kasarani [Standard]

For the first time in the Africa Cup of Nations finals history, the East African region will be represented by four teams in the upcoming continental showpiece slated for June 21-July 19 in Egypt.

The Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) teams have been the biggest beneficiaries of the recently expanded 24 team tournament with four of its members securing a ticket to North Africa after the conclusion of the qualifying round at the weekend.

The last time Cecafa had at least two teams in the competition was in 2004 in Tunisia, where they were represented by Kenya’s Harambee Stars and Rwanda’s Amavubi.

But on Sunday, history was written when Tanzania beat Uganda 3-0 to join Burundi, Kenya and the Uganda Cranes in the month-long extravaganza.

The draws of the tournament in its new format, whose group winners and runners-up will qualify automatically, will be conducted on April 12 within a historic place in Cairo ‘facing the Sphinx and the Pyramids’.

While Harambee Stars qualified as the second team in Group F with seven points after falling 1-0 to Ghana in Accra, the Cranes retained top spot in Group L (13 points) despite losing 3-0 away to Tanzania’s Taifa Stars.

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Uganda will be making their second consecutive appearance in the tournament as their perennial rivals Kenya returns to the continental finals after a 15-year hiatus.

The result in Dar es Salaam also saw another East African side Taifa Stars sail through for the first time since 1980 but as runners up (8 points) after third-placed Lesotho were held to a barren draw by their hosts Cape Verde.

However, it is the Swallows of Burundi who shocked the continent when they qualified for the finals for the first time in their history as runners up in Group C after frustrating Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon to a 1-1 draw in Bujumbura.

2019 AFCON finals.

Cecafa Secretary General Nicholas Musonye termed it a big achievement for the region.

“Cecafa congratulates Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania for their qualification. We are very proud of their performance,” Musonye said.

Former Cecafa Secretary General Sam Nyamweya said: “It is a dream come true for the region. We are proud of the qualified teams for this is the vision we have always dreamed of to see the region represented at the continental level.”