The hunt for bragging rights in the region begins as the 18th edition of the East Africa Secondary Schools Games starts on Friday afternoon in Arusha, Tanzania. Schools from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zanzibar and for the first time Malawi, will battle in 14 disciplines for nine days across different venues.
East Africa’s youngest nation South Sudan has not sent teams having last featured in the 2017 edition held in Gulu, Uganda. Kenya, who are the defending champions, will be represented by 629 students as they seek maintain their dominance in the championships. Kenya has won 16 of the 17 overall titles since 2002. Uganda won the 2014 championships in Tanzania and will be hoping for another memorable outing. Uganda have the largest contingent at this year’s games with 855 students, while Tanzania have 625 students.
Rwanda have 310 students while Burundi have 224 and Zanzibar 86.
Malawi’s participation in the games will spice up the competition and they will field teams in boys’ football and netball. Organisers Federation of East Africa Secondary Schools Sports Association will be impressed with the huge turnout especially after only three countries; Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda took part in last year’s edition in Musanze, Rwanda where Kenya won 28 medals; 10 gold, eight silver and 10 bronze to beat their Ugandan and Rwandese counterparts, who finished second and third respectively.
Uganda, who were a major threat to Kenya’s hopes of retaining the overall title, were once again forced to play second fiddle after grabbing a total 25 medals.
The opening ceremony will be held at the Sheikh Abeid Stadium followed by Kenya’s under-19 boys’ football champions St Anthony’s Boys Kitale taking on hosts Lindi Secondary School in their pool A opener. St Anthony’s will be hoping for a good start as they make a return to the competition having missed out last year. In 2017, they failed to go past the preliminary stage and they will be out to make amends for that disappointment.
Having clinched the Kenyan title two weeks ago, the Solidarity Boys are confident of completing the double and add to their 2002 regional crown. St Anthony’s coach Peter Mayoyo believes his charges are capable of going all the way to the final. “My boys are hungry to win the title and we believe we have a squad that can mix it with the big teams here,” Mayoyo said in Kisumu after wining the national title.