The New Year comes with new things but for sports lovers across the globe, it is more competition. Whereas 2018 had a number of major events, with the FIFA World Cup the biggest of them, 2019 has more. Here are the main ones to look out for this year.
1. Africa Cup of Nations
After a 14-year wait, Harambee Stars finally made it back to the high table of African football and they will be among the 24 teams that will grace the tournament from June 7-30 at a yet to be revealed venue.
Kenya’s qualification was down to their impressive show in the qualifiers where they are top of Group F with seven points, one ahead of giants Ghana and were also helped by Sierra Leone’s suspension by FIFA due to government interference.
Cameroon were initially set to host the biennial event but they were stripped of the rights due to delays in preparations and either Morocco and South Africa are set to replace them.
2. World Athletics Championships
Team Kenya will again be expected to fly the country’s flag by participating in the World Athletics Championships that take place in Doha, Qatar from September 28 to October 6.
Kenya won 11 medals (five gold, two silver and four bronze) in the last edition in London two years ago and a lot more will be expected this year. Kenyans will hope to see David Rudisha back on track while hoping Eliud Kipchoge’s scintillating 2018 form extends into 2019.
3. World Cross-Country Championships
Before the Worlds in Doha, Kenya expects to have bagged a host of gold medals at the 2019 IAAF World Cross-Country Championships which will be hosted in the city of Aarhus, Denmark.
The 43rd edition will be held on March 30 with part of the course, including a run on the grass roof of the Moesgaard Museum. Kenyans have always ruled cross-country and having finished top with 12 medals (four golds, five silvers and three bronze) the same will be expected if not more this time around.
4. All Africa Games
Another event where Kenyans expect to reap medals in 2019 is the 12th edition of the All Africa Games which will take place from August 23 to September 3 in Casablanca and Rabat, Morocco, the first time to be hosted by more than one city.
Kenya won 32 medals (six gold, nine silver and 17 bronze) to finish eighth in the 2015 edition in Congo Brazzaville and besides athletics, other sports are also expected to bring in medals.
Boxing, volleyball, weightlifting and racquet games are the other sports set to boost Kenya’s medal count in North Africa.
5. Rugby World Cup
For the umpteenth time, Kenya will once again be spectators as the tussle for the Webb Ellis trophy, rugby’s Holly Grail takes place in Japan from September 20 to November 2.
Kenya Simbas missed out on qualification, both via the Africa Cup and Repechage, meaning Namibia and South Africa will fly Africa’s flag once more just like it was the case in England four years ago.
Champions New Zealand will be seeking an unprecedented third straight title but Australia, South Africa, Ireland and England under Eddie Jones will have something to say about that.
6. Cricket World Cup
Hosts England and two-time champions India will start as hot favourites for the quadrennial extravaganza which will be played in groups and in a round robin format, just like the 1992 World Cup. In what will be the 12th edition, the 2019 Cricket World Cup will be hosted by England and Wales, from May 30 to July 14 with champions Australia keen to retain their title.
7. Asian Cup
We are already into the first major event of 2019 following the start of the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates at the weekend. The 2019 Asian Cup is the 17th edition of the quadrennial international men’s football championship of Asia organised by the Asian Football Confederation and will run from January 5 to February 1.
South Korea are hoping Son Heung-min’s dazzling pace and goals can help them end a 59-year wait while holders Australia, four-time winners Japan, Carlos Queiroz’s Iran and hosts the UAE are all formidable opponents.
8. FIFA Women’s World Cup
The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup will be the eighth edition of the quadrennial event and will be held from June 7-July 7 in France. It will be the first time the country will host the tournament and the third for a European nation. Matches are planned for nine cities across France with champions the United States hoping to defend their title.
9. AIBA World Boxing Championships
Once again, Kenya will hope to have representatives in the AIBA World Boxing Championships set to be held in Sochi, Russia from September 7-21. Kenyan pugilists have struggled to impress at the event whenever they have qualified and not much is expected to change.
In fact, the confusion currently being witnessed at Boxing Association of Kenya might make it difficult to have a formidable team given the infighting between officials is likely to lead to a hotly-contested election.
10. Copa America
A final chance perhaps for Lionel Messi to win a major trophy for his beloved Argentina? The gifted Barcelona forward has won every trophy at club level but none so far for his country.
Back-to-back Copa America final losses to Chile saw Messi briefly retire from international football but he returned a few months later after pleas from fans and officials. To do it this time, Messi will have to lead Argentina past bitter rivals Brazil who will host the June 14-July 7 tournament.