Historical football clash between Ethiopia and Eritrea delayed again
ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) will not be fielding a team in this year's Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup edition, ruling out a clash with Eritrea.
Since 1998, the two countries have not faced each other in a competitive game, owing to their fallout precipitated by boundary disputes.
With Cecafa set to kick off on Saturday, December 7th, Ethiopia's Walya Antelopes, have pulled out. BBC understands that the situation was orchestrated by 'financial constraints'.
Football organizers from both sides have been trying to organize friendly matches in the past, but such efforts are yet to yield fruits.
Isaias Afwerki, the Eritrean president, has since restored normal relations with Addis Ababa last year, a move that was facilitated by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
In October this year, Ahmed, who took over power in early 2018, won the Nobel Peace Prize ostensibly for the peacekeeping role in Eritrea.
The withdrawal means Group "A" at this year's Senior Challenge Cup will feature hosts Uganda, Burundi, and Eritrea. The two nations were to play each other on Saturday.
Group "B" will feature guest team DR Congo, who will use the tournament to prepare for the 2020 Total Africa Nations Championship (CHAN), alongside Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia.
Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and minnows Djibouti will tussle in Group C. Libya has expressed interest as this year's guest team.
Abiy Ahmed has been hailed for enhancing liberalism in Ethiopia, a country that fought autocratic for decades.
Cecafa Secretary General Nicholas Musonye on Wednesday confirmed that his team is facing financial challenges, but insisted the tournament shall go on as planned.
“The only challenge we have so far is money. We have already rolled out our budget but we do not have the money," he said, adding that sponsors are yet to declare an interest.
He added: “Azam remains our broadcast partner and all media houses within the region should liaise with them in time for content. Even with financial setbacks, we are committed to delivering a successful tournament.”
The tournament will be held but Uganda, who are hosting it for the first time since 2012 when they beat Kenya's Harambee Stars to lift the trophy.
Holders Kenya will begin their campaign on Sunday again minnows Djibouti in Jinja. Football stadiums within Kampala are not available for the tournament.
Eritrea, a former province of Ethiopia, gained independence from Addis Ababa in 1993. Internal conflicts have marred the country until recently.