DEFENDING champions, Uganda Cranes qualified for a record 15th CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup final after ejecting bogey rivals Zanzibar Heroes 2-1 last evening. Cranes, seeking an 11th title, are in line to win the top cash award of $30,000 (sh60m) offered
Today: Second Semi-final
Rwanda v Tanzania
Uganda v winner
By Reuben Olita in Nairobi
DEFENDING champions, Uganda Cranes qualified for a record 15th CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup final after ejecting bogey rivals Zanzibar Heroes 2-1 last evening.
Cranes, seeking an 11th title, are in line to win the top cash award of $30,000 (sh60m) offered by sponsors-communications firm Orange.
Steven Bengoâ€™s cleverly curled free kick after two minutes and an own goal by defender Abdulhalim Hamoud nine minutes later saw Cranes advance after a tough and thrilling semi- final at Nyayo National Stadium yesterday.
Prolific scorer Geoffrey Maasa had another chance to consolidate Ugandaâ€™s lead but his free kick from nearly the same spot as the opener was cleared by a defender for a fruitless corner.
Abdulghan Abdulla pulled one back for the Zanzibaris in the 74th minute but Cranes, who conceded their first goal in the tournament, held on for a place in Sundayâ€™s final.
Cranes coach Robert Williamson saluted his troops for the victory saying his strategy worked.
â€œMy boys will have enough rest before playing the final,â€ the Scot told reporters in darkness inside the media centre after a power black-out that came following the final whistle.
â€œI know it will be a difficult match whether itâ€™s Rwanda or Tanzania but we are ready to defend our title successfully.â€
It was the end of the road for battling Zanzibar team that clinched the cup once in 1995, has reached the semi-finals seven times and won bronze twice.
At the same time, former champions Tanzania face Rwanda out for a second title after the 1999 triumph.
Migingo dispute erupts
They say football and politics are inseparable. The disputed Migingo Island between Kenya and Uganda resurfaced during the Kenya versus Uganda Orange CECAFA Challenge Cup match on Monday, with one fan carrying a banner reading â€œKenya ni yetu, Mijingo yetu na Cecafa Yetu!â€ (Kenya, Mijingo and Cecafa are ours).
As Uganda marched to victory, a section of local fans chanted â€œHaki yetu, Migingo yetuâ€ and threw stones at Ugandan fans before Kenyan riot police intervened.
The Island on Lake Victoria has been at the centre of dispute between Kenya and Uganda claiming ownership.
Subs carry the day
Late substitutes have often translated into match winners for coaches in the knockout stage of the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup.
Uganda Cranes coach Robert Williamson brought in Robert Ssentongo for Owen Kasule, a move that paid dividends when he scored the winner against Kenya minutes after coming on.
Zanzibar goalkeeper Mohammed Khamis had earlier come from the bench two minutes to full time to save two crucial post match penalties that saw his team beat Zambia 4-3.
Politics killing football
Too much interference into football affairs by politicians is killing football in the CECAFA region, so thinks Cranes coach Robert Williamson.
â€œEast African nations should separate politics and football if they have to excel in the game and match other regions in Africa,â€ Williamson said.
The coach added that football was the worldâ€™s most popular game that needed support by all stakeholders and not engaging in wrangling and politics.
Uganda Cranes storm CECAFA final