President Paul Kagame of Rwanda has for years now distinguished himself by throwing invaluable weight behind efforts to promote soccer in the east and central Africa region.
For a whole decade, he has pumped a cool $60,000 every year into the Council of East and Central African Football Associations (CECAFA) championship now appropriately known as Kagame Cup.
It is sponsorship well directed indeed, as soccer commands massive following and has grown into a household name across the region.
Founding Zanzibar President Abeid Amani Karume donated a $60,000 prize fund package to the CECAFA club championship hosted by Zanzibar in 1998. It was a trend-setting and therefore memorable gesture, no doubt.
President Kagame has built on the gesture with rare consistency in that he has injected $60,000 into the tournament every year since 2002, and he doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to halt or end the sponsorship any time soon.
The prize fund package has been a huge relief to the CECAFA secretariat, which has often had to make frantic efforts searching for sponsorship to cover various operational costs aside from prizes.
Ask any CECAFA top official on what would happen should President Kagame decide to withhold the annual prize fund package!
As widely acknowledged, the Kagame sponsorship has excellently cushioned CECAFA by sparing the council the need to shoulder the annual prize fund packages.
Alongside relieving the council’s secretariat, the sponsorship has stood the winners of the competition, runners-up and third-placed teams in good stead.
The assurance of the cash prizes has clearly boosted the morale of not only participating associations, clubs, players and officials alike but also soccer lovers across the region.
Most soccer clubs, particularly those competing in top-flight leagues in the east and central Africa region, have every reason to prize the Kagame Cup championship.
It is no small matter that the Rwandan leader has not even once defaulted on his promise to dish out funds for the tournament even when his own country is represented by only a single club when others have more.
Never has he imposed any conditions on how the money should be spent and never has he favoured Rwandan clubs. Rather, he has always given CECAFA the liberty to make use of the funds as it deems appropriate regardless of which country in the region hosts the championship.
In that winning clubs have been beneficiaries of the handsome prize package, the tournament has also helped in raising the degree of competitiveness among teams.
Individual players have also been benefiting from other prize sub-categories such as ‘Golden Boot’ award, all courtesy of the Rwandan leader’s generosity and love for sports.
We congratulate him for his unwavering determination to support soccer in our region in a most remarkable way, which also adds to efforts to strengthen East African co-operation.
Besides the competition and the hunt for cash prizes, the tournament has played a key, albeit rather silent, role in consolidating co-operation and enhancing relations amongst players, fans, officials and the entire soccer fraternity across the region.
Given the guaranteed sponsorship, Kagame Cup has further stood as an important source of employment in tourism and other sectors. We only hope the championship will live on.