FOR the first time ever, the East African region will have four nations at the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Having four nations; Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania in Egypt, will arguably bring over ten thousands East Africans to Egypt as supporters of their teams. It will be then the biggest pilgrimage to the end of Nile from people whose countries is the source of the world’s most popular river.
The fournation leap to AFCON finals comes a few days after the region’s top guns; Simba and Gor Mahia advanced to the quarter final stage of the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup respectively. General 2019 has been a banner year for East Africa and its football governing body, The Council of East and Central African Football Associations (CECAFA).
Tanzania’s Taifa Stars who won the ticket to play in the finals after beating Uganda 3-0 in Dar es Salaam on Sunday came as the fourth entry, after Kenya, Uganda and Burundi. Debutants Burundi sealed qualification to the biggest football showpiece on the continent on Saturday after a one all draw against Gabon. The last time East Africa had two nations participating at the same edition was in 2004 that is; Rwanda and Kenya.
Uganda has the record appearance from the East African community having qualified for AFCON seven times. Uganda still hold the success record as it is the only country managed to reach semi final and finished third after winning a play off, that was in 1978, about 41 years ago. How the 4 teams qualified? Burundi finished second in group C on ten points, four behind leaders Mali.
A one all draw at home against Gabon on match day six Burundi qualified for AFCON for the first time. Group C Mali-14 points Burundi-10 points Gabon –8 points South Sudan –0 points Kenya:The Harambee stars ended the qualifying campaign in second place in group F on seven points.
Ghana beat Kenya in the final group game to top the group on nine points. It should be noted that this group had only three teams after Sierra Leone withdrew. Group F Ghana – 9 points Kenya -7 points Ethiopia –1 point Sierra Leone– Withdrew Uganda: The Cranes sealed their place with a game to spare following a 1-0 win at home against Cape Verde in the penultimate game.
The Cranes were the last team to concede a goal in the qualifying phase and this came on the final day when Tanzania won 3-0. Tanzania: The Taifa stars were in the same group (Group L) with Uganda and needed to beat the latter to qualify for 2019 AFCON.