Uganda Cranes Lost a Battle... Not a War
The one goal and the other 'goal'.
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First published: April 12, 2007
Even up to now, if you walk on the streets of the Kampala, all talk is about the Senegalese referee, Badru Diatta, who denied the Uganda Cranes a well deserved point in Aboekuta against the Super Eagles of Nigeria in their group two African Cup of Nations qualifiers memorable tie. Little wonder then, that the enraged soccer fraternity in Uganda has started attacking the Senegalese and Nigerian Embassies in Kampala in protest at the day light robbery. It is the Ugandan Police that is keeping them in check with threats of arrest.
Diatta unbelievably cancelled Geoffrey Serunkuma's would be equalizer in the dying minutes of the game without any explanation. The St. George FC hit man headed home a ball from Ibrahim Ssekajja, received from Dan Wagaluka's 90th minute well calculated corner kick. The incident comes not so long after another inept refereeing episode from yet another Senegalese referee, Diouf Samba, who denied the Cranes maximum points away in Niamey against another West African team, Niger.
Uganda's disallowed goal v Nigeria - 2008 ANCQ 24-03-2007
All said, the Ugandan soccer fraternity should not cry too much over the spilt milk but return to the drawing board and devise means of booking a place in the Ghana 2008 African Cup of Nations finals. This reminds me of an incident in the late 70's when the national boxing team, the Bombers, returned home from a competition and narrated to the late President Idi Amin about how poor refereeing had denied them victory. The former multi-talented sportsman gave them an easy solution, "Go for knock-outs, then and see how impossible it is for the referee to save your opponents". Shouldn't the Cranes borrow some of Amin's advice before their mouth watering return ties against the two West African masters of robbery on home ground?
Losing to Nigeria is no guarantee that the Crane's efforts are dead and buried. There are three more games to go, including one away game against a relatively easy-to-beat Lesotho. Out of these three games, the Cranes need only to gather seven points to qualify as the best losers. The three best second placed teams from their respective groups of four will join the group winners and Ghana the hosts, into the finals.
Nwankwo Kanu scores the only goal of the match for the Super Eagles
Currently out of the qualifying bracket with four points, Uganda has to overtake Sudan and Equatorial Guinea (both currently having 6 points) besides Mali and Congo (both currently having 5 points). The good news for Uganda is that Sudan and Equatorial Guinea have to play their last fixtures against strong sides Tunisia and Cameroon respectively. Mali will be traveling to Togo while Congo get entangled with the Bafana Bafana of South Africa.
Considering that all these other contenders have two difficult away games each, there is little reason for Laszlo Czaba's boys to fail to capitalize on their two home fixtures. After their incredible performance against the so called mighty Super Eagles of Nigeria, the controversial loss not withstanding, even Vogts is aware of the steep climb that waits him and his boys in Kampala come early June this year. Little wonder then, that the German tactician is planning for a reshuffle in his squad before making the tricky Kampala trip. "We should bring in some new figures to add steel to the team. Otherwise things won't be easy for us in Kampala. This should be one of the most organized teams in Africa" the new Nigerian manager was quoted as saying after the controversial 1-0 victory over the Cranes.
His counterpart, Laszlo Csaba is breathing fire and cannot wait for the date as he promises to pay the Nigerians in naira (Nigerian currency). "It was a day light robbery and everyone witnessed it but they should get ready for real humiliation at Namboole stadium. Even if they travel with their Senegalese referee, they stand no chance this time," vowed the seemingly disappointed naturalized German.
The Players almost echo their manager as they promise earth and heaven. 'I can't talk much but I pray that God keeps me alive up to the return leg. The current Nigerian team are just a name," says Kaiser Chiefs' gifted winger David Obua, one of the players who gave a lot of trouble to the Super Eagles' rearguard, as their right full back Isaac Okorwonko will testify.
Andy Mwesigwa is suspended for the return leg after picking up a second yellow card in Aboekuta, meaning that Csaba may be forced to sacrifice the team kingpin Ibrahim Ssekajja away from the mid field to his preferred sweeping role in partnernership with Timothy Batabaire. This will leave room for Bagoole to return to the starting eleven. The other option is to keep Ssekajja in the midfield and continue with his defensive shielding role. For this, Richard Malinga will have to shift to the Cranes' central defence from the right full back position as Police FC's experienced Simeon Masaba takes on this responsibility.
The other good news to Csaba is the return of Uganda's number one striker, Geoffrey Massa to the team after serving his one match suspension. The Elshams FC's current top scorer got a controversial booking in the game against Niger. After that magnificent display against Nigeria, every Ugandan is now convinced that the Cranes have the capacity to take on the so called big boys of Africa. Let's be good losers and accept the results from the Abeokuta battle and hope to recover as the mission to Ghana progresses.
How the Cranes' players rated in the Aboukuta battle (out of 10).
He was more of a spectator on that day as the Super Eagles' attacking force led by the duo of Newcastle's striker Obafemi Martins and Portsmouth's Nwanko Kanu couldn't penetrate the Cranes' well organized and solid rear guard. But his organizational skills and professional approach to the game earn SC Villa's former goal keeper 7 points.
The URA's defender started the game well as he kept Odemwinge at bay for the first 50-60 minutes of the game, only to loose concentration in final stages, especially after the hosts learnt that the Cranes' left flank was non-porous and started launching their attacks through his side. His overlapping runs were a joy to watch but he was occasionally caught on his transit back. He earns 6 points.
'Mr. confident 'did exactly what he was expected to do. Vogts might have substituted Obodo to no avail as his successor Utaka, couldn't make his way past the Serbian-based left full back. He deserves 8 points.
Up to now we are still wondering from where the Celtic Bloemfontein FC's iron man got his coolness. He professionally turned Kanu and Obafemi into lackluster players. He is worth 8 points.
Before departing for Aboukuta I talked to him, asking him whether he had the credentials to rub shoulders with the Nigerian professionals. 'I am also a professional', was the only answer to my question. Though he is suspended for the next game after his booking, he lived up to his words and 7 points are appropriate for the Iceland-based, former SC Villa skipper.
No comment on the Argentine-based libero. He was man of the match. He gets 9 points.
The APR FC winger gave Taye Taiwo a hard time, so much that Taiwo brought him down in the forbidden area, only for the referee to feign blindness. However, as usual his poor crosses were prominent. He gets 6 points.
Superb. 8 points were earned by this Rasta man.
Like Fimbo Mukasa, he is almost useless when his team is on the receiving end but very effective when given a chance to shoot at the goal. His controversially disallowed 90th minute would-be-equalizer proves my argument. 7 points.
He was unfortunate to get a knock in the early stages of the game, but even while limping, he showed Yobo that the difference between the two was blurred. The Danish-based striker deserves 7 points.
Was this boy born for big games? Zoom back to his 86th minute scorcher from Ssekajja's free kick! Isaac Okorwonko and company should be still massaging their muscles. He earns 8 points.
Coach: Laszlo Csaba
Spot-on. His brave tactical decision to shift Ssekajja from the back to the midfield was the master card. He gets 10\10.
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First published: April 12, 2007
Ramathan Kasozi is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. . A graduate Journalist, Kasozi has more than 5 years experience reporting on sports in Uganda for different print and broadcast media houses.