The reason is a partial eclipse of the regional club challenge cup, otherwise known as the Kagame Cup, as it doesn’t have the aura it used to have earlier.
Even with Mapinduzi Cup, its regional representation has declined over the past year or so, to an entirely Mainland-Isles tournament.
Still one has to scan a bit further to figure out why the city giants no longer take turns to feature in the tournament, where one side left the other to play, depending on which side needed backup honours for that year or at that moment.
At a time that the league title was changing hands more frequently or perhaps more predictably, the seemingly weaker side would make a point of featuring in the Isles tournament with chances of lifting the cup, adding to its local prestige.
In earlier decades the pivotal post-league tourney was the East African club championship, which was broadened and started losing its competitive sparkle.
That is part of the explanation for the newfound interest in Mapinduzi Cup, that it is now more local than it used to be earlier, or put differently, the more localized the competition, the more it appears that winning it becomes an interesting issue.
The reason is that the likely winners as either of the city giants or their next of kin, Azam FC, who has in the past won the Premier League but hasn’t shown the consistency it requires to remain at the top.
If any other club wins the tourney it would come close to a miracle, surely.
So the Mapinduzi Cup tournament is adding up to events where the city derby is assured, namely two such events in the premier league, a possible encounter in the FA Cup where both to reach the top, or the semifinals, etc apart from the Charity Shield.
In large measure, the Zanzibar event is replacing the regional event as a marginally outward bound tournament, though there is still some interrogation to make as to why regional sides left the tournament, and last year plus this year it is localized.
One reason could be participation awards, where there is a tendency for minimal compensation for players at the club and national levels, such that clubs find it without interest to use the time to travel and obtain paltry sums thereof.
In that case, poor compensations of teams participating in the Isles tourney have the paradoxical effect of making it necessary for the city rivals to go there, implying that they see the lack of foreign competition somewhat favourably.
There is no visible prestige in winning over Gor Mahia, Sofapaka, or Big Bullets except if it is in a rewarding tournament.
Now strictly speaking the Mapinduzi Cup is not that rewarding for players of the two city sides or their managements for that matter, but it becomes part of an outreach event to their Isles fans and an extra delicacy for their city fans as well as upcountry, resetting narratives.
Note on the apparent decline of regional club championship as arising from its lack of standing in any of the participating countries and internationally, as the European circuit is now part of local reflexes, whether it is in following up those matches on television or in regular betting.
While nearly all soccer-loving youths know players of leading English Premier League sides by name, scarcely anyone knows one or two players at Big Bullets or Sofapaka, in which case entrances are also paltry (as there are no annual tickets valid all the season) and the soccer authorities tend to put the bar rather high for entrance fees.
But the issue is that without seasonal tickets no one is bound to a sitting spot at the stadium, no sense of gathering or community is created in any competition, save collective feelings in an exciting city derby, and little else.
It is similarly possible that fans in the neighbouring countries were not even watching their teams participate in the Zanzibar event, in which case there was little outreach effect even if say Gor Mahia or Kampala City Council FC wins the cup.
Soccer is an extrovert’s game, an event of showmanship where praise and disputation are central to the motivation of players, otherwise, they would need to be beefed up with substantial amounts of cash to spend a week in the sun for little or no sporting reason.
In that case, the Isles soccer authorities could perhaps look for auxiliary sponsorship from afar, as Gulf merchants might not be in a position to throw money into a tournament devoted to reliving the 1964 events on the Sultan.