Joshua Cheptegei in the 5000m Olympics race

Leading Ugandan football pundits and government officials in charge of sports are excited at the prospect of Uganda and Tanzania bidding to co-host the 2027 African Cup of Nations [AFCON].

Having been a good observer of football in the region, I disagree with the proponents of this suggestion, mainly for economic reasons but I also think government should be rational when it comes to which sports event to host.

There is no doubt that athletics, not football is selling the East African Community [EAC] globally. And I urge that the EAC Partner States to start courting the International Athletics Federation [IAAF] so that a particular year is given for say Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania to co-host World Athletics Championships.

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That means governments in the region should put more money in athletics, more so to build the required athletics facilities. The preparations must begin now.

Bidding to host World Athletics Championship is better than bidding to host AFCON because East Africa, especially Kenya and Uganda have had big names over the decades participate in international athletics, making and breaking records.

In bidding to host World Athletics Championship, we would be joined by our brothers, the Ethiopians who have also had good exploits in this game. We would have galvanized the support of world athletics associations that would want their athletes and fans visit the home of greatest long distance runners.

I am sure many athletes-still active, and retired, as well as fans world over would want to come and visit the eastern Africana region. Just as FIFA allowed South Africa to host the World Cup in 2010, IAAF would favour Eastern Africa countries to host its championship sometime in the future. We only have to approach IAAF and tell them of our intention.

The world still remembers John Akibua, Davis Kamoga, Dorcus Inzukuru, Stephen Kiprotich, ……., Joshua Keptegei, Stella Chesang, Prisca Chesang, Moses Kipsiro, Halima Nakaayi, Tarsis Orogot, Jacob Kiplimo, to name but a few.

Kenya on the other hand its athletics heroes who have made headlines over the decades, same to Ethiopia. I am sure IAAF would to honour these great African athletes by holding the championship on their soil that even has one of world’s famous game parks, that the foreign visitors would tour, leaving behind dollars for the region.

I don’t know how many footballers from our region are known globally or have made an impact on global football. Athletes have on the other side did this over the decades. Fufa boss Moses Magogo has been quoted on social media, confirming that Ugandans have no love for local football, that they love foreign clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United and others. So why should given spend to host AFCON?

The countries can use these great athletes to woo the world athletics body to grant their wish.

Athletics will make EAC earn more dollars in form of tourist revenue, than football. This is because it will attract fans and federations from across the world. AFCON won’t do this. It is a toutnament for the poorest continent on earth.

I don’t think hosting AFCON in 2027 by Uganda and Tanzania has any significant economic value as compared to if the EAC countries bid to host World Athletics Championship. AFCON only attracts a few fans, moreover from poor Africa. They won’t come with the many dollars, Euros, yen, to spend. Africans, as we know find problems with travelling. They will stay home and watch games on TV screens.

On the other hand, should EAC government leaders as well as sports associations bid to host World Athletics Championship, I assure you dollars will come in but that would be 10 years from now.

Why I am proposing that the region hosts World Athletics Championship is that we are seeing a growing number of good athletes that only need support to be at the top. On the other hand, we are seeing quality football and footballers disappearing. For instance which footballer in Uganda currently can you compare with those that played in the 1970s, 1980, 1990 and 2000s.

This is buttressed by another disturbing fact that football clubs that would be identifying and availing good footballers are disorgansied, financially inept and mismanaged. We all know that traditional football clubs in Uganda, for example, are doing badly in terms of finances and organisation. I cannot mention theme here. I would say football in Uganda is almost dead, despite the effort by some sponsors to support some of the domestic leagues. Hate me or love me, but the truth has to be told. You cannot have a few football clubs concentrated in the central region of the country and say football is well represented across the country. How many of the over 130 districts in Uganda have organised football clubs or own a simple stadium?

I can conclude by saying that by bidding to host IAAF World Athletics Championships, EAC would have rewarded its athletes because it is athletes, not footballers that have put the region on the world over the decades.

And the current developments show it still athletes and not footballers still shinning for the region. EAC Partner States must agree to bid to host IAAF World Athletics Championships, even if it is 10 years from now, even though investments in that venture must begin now.