Another Disastrous Campaign
Ugandan football fans wait for some miracle.
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First published: September 28, 2005
The phrase, “some things never change”, should constantly be accompanied with any talk of Ugandan football. As it stands, the year 1978, still remains the only time that the Cranes last made it to the Nations Cup, and the ghosts have never shied away from haunting us ever since. For every failure, there is usually an attachment of reasons, and as is the case in the Ugandan picture, the upheavals have been played both on and off the pitch.
The problem here lies in the fact that Ugandan football administrators never learn from their past mistakes, and with this attitude of learning nothing and forgetting everything from the other previous campaigns won’t do us any good.
To recap a few anomalies, in 1992 SC Villa players absconded from national duty because their captain Paul Hasule (RIP) had been suspended by the football administrations. Since this Villa team formed the core of the Cranes, we went on to lose our final game miserably. If we had gotten a point, we would have featured in Senegal. Club politics and selfishness among FUFA officials were the main reasons for our failures in 1996 and 1998. Now, the rest of the campaigns were full of hiring foreign coaches in the middle of the qualification campaigns, which yielded only insults for the foreign legion. One can only save 1994 where we missed qualification because our very own Ronald Semugabi missed a penalty against Nigeria in Nakivubo that would have booked us a ticket to Tunis. Well Nigeria beat us and eventually won the Nations show piece.
The current qualification campaign was meant to book places to both the Nations Cup and the World Cup. Unless you are not Ugandan, talk about World Cup qualification was way out of our reach, especially if you were pitted in a group with Ghana, South Africa and DRC, all which are very powerful football countries. And with the campaign almost through, we find ourselves at the bottom of the seven-team table, a place we have occupied for the entire campaign save for the opening fixture, which we in most cases win very convincingly. If only the fans knew it was just a to deceive.
Our undoing on the football pitch has always been scoring goals. This can be testified by the lack of the country’s top marksman, Hassan Mubiru, who has no national team goal against his name in as many years. Our poor away form has made it even worse. In such a qualification race, the objective should always be to win your home games and then pray for results away from home, a feat we have failed miserably. Countries like DRC and Ghana made this thesis a priority and that’s reason why the latter could make it to the world cup.
Administrative wrangles have been menu to the national team. Dennis Obua’s FUFA was pinned down by the government and pressure group, SOS (Save Our Soccer), for swindling FIFA grants that were meant for the development of the football game. Such sectarian and barbaric acts clowned the FUFA house in Mengo for long, and you wonder what these guys used the money for, because they even failed to pay debts worth 3 million Ushs to a lady who used to cook food for the team as way back as 1999-six good years and a whole football body couldn’t raise that amount. This is only just one of the in competences. Off went that regime and a normalisation committee was set up headed by Dr Sekajjugo, whose football administration skills were very questionable, as he had failed to smoothly handle the national badminton association. Delayed players’ allowance were the order of the day, and surely there was no way this was ever going to motivate the players.
What about the ill talk of club politics? The Ugandan team cannot just be coached by one person. It is thought that the coach is appointed for formality. Mike Mutebi was criticised for his ways of selecting the team. Many fans, especially Villa fans, were against the idea of Mike fielding a team dominated by KCC FC players, a team he coached. All these fans wanted was to have the SC Villa players added on the team sheet irrespective of their form. In 1999, Villa players dominated the U-23 side that took part in the All Africa Games in South Africa, and no one complained. The reason is that all those who made the team deserved their places on merit and there couldn’t have cropped a reason to criticise that feat. The same situation that this time round KCC had the on form players.
It is this club politicking that lured the embattled football administrators to hire a foreign coach from Egypt in the names of Mohammed Abbas- a move that proved to be miscalculated. I wonder why Ugandans forget so quickly. May be its just that they believe that for as long as we have someone with a different colour skin on the touch line, then we are headed for glory. Its not so long ago that another white man in Pedro Pasculli was brought in the middle of a campaign which was being well handled by the late Paul Hasule. And I am certain no one would love to remember the drama that happened in Nambole when Rwanda beat us in our own backyard and went on to qualify for the Nations Cup. Before him came a man from Nigeria called Harrison Okagbue, who would really be testimony to other foreign coaches intending to come here. Poor living conditions, no transport to the training grounds, delayed payments, were some of the things that these people went through. And even Abbas can put the icing on the misery cake by recognising that coming to Uganda was the wrong thing. Well at least FUFA won’t be hurt since he was provided for charity by the Egyptian government.
When Dorcus Inzikuru won gold in the 3000m-steeplechase race in Helsinki, the country was proud and the lavish reception she got from the government was magnificent. They had to wait to recognise her feat after she was a victor- a thing I am sure wouldn’t have been done if she hadn’t won. The same thing has been to football. The government is very slow in releasing assistance. Some move really irked me when the government released money to the national team before they travelled to Accra to face Ghana. The move was commendable, but by the time of this fixture, we were playing for no other reason but honouring our fixtures, as the FIFA rules require us to. Why didn’t the government release this money when we had just started our campaign? Maybe we would have fared better than we did.
As the patience of the local fans gets thinner with each passing campaign, its time to look to the future. Surely the talent is available. If only the administrators could learn from their past mistakes.
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First published: September 28, 2005