What Next for the Uganda Cranes

Kampala, Uganda - 1999, a year the Uganda Kobs participated in the All Africa Games in Johannesburg, a tournament the team subsequently impressed all who followed it. It was a dreamy team I can tell you that.

Ibrahim Sekajja, Sulaiman Tenywa, Hakim M agumba, and the “Mu-Mu” lethal partnership upfront of Hassan Mubiru and Andrew Fimbo Mukasa. This young team of 1999 just took your breath away! Tactically they were so good, they oozed talent that had not been seen in a Ugandan team for a long time and the technical skill each individual player possessed saw most of these players enjoy glittering football careers to date.

So it was somewhat an anti-climax later on in the tournament when they were beaten in the semi-finals and also in the 3rd place play-off by a relatively good South African team. I am convinced that if only Andrew Mukasa on the day played with more purpose and for the team leaving his off-field differences with Ibrahim Sekajja to one side, for just the full 90 minutes, Uganda Kobs would have gone further in the tournament or at least beaten South Africa convincingly.

Fast forward to 2014, under the stewardship of the current FUFA president Engineer Moses Magogo, a formidable Cranes team featured in the CHAN tournament being held in South Africa. Uganda Cranes which has always found games against West African opponents tough and very tricky managed to convincingly beat Burkina Faso Stallions in the opening fixture of the group giving hope to Ugandans that maybe the long held tag of chokers was about to be vanquished. Beating the 2013 African Nations finalists, who only lost to the eventual winners Nigeria was a statement in its’ self.

“To see the kind of performance the boys put in, the work rate, desire, creativity and tireless defending, left most doubters eating humble pie because most didn’t give them much of a chance,” a very proud Micho Sredojevic said at a press conference in Uganda on team’s return home.

However, the Uganda Cranes in the second game showed another side to their personality. We can either put it down to nerves, complacency or luck of international experience but it looked like the team took this game for granted having beaten Burkina Faso earlier on, feeling that Zimbabwe would be a walk in the park.

On the contrary the Cranes were totally out played in all departments, the team was a shadow of itself and a goalless draw flattered to deceive.

Bringing us to the final group game against Morocco, one they went on to lose 3-1 after holding their own for long spells of the match. Our tournament best performer, Yunus Sentamu notched his third goal of the campaign, his exploits coming to nothing as the Cranes crumbled in the last 10 minutes of the match conceding two goals. Something Micho credited to both the brilliance of the Morocco striker Iajour Mohcine and his boys failing to keep shape and concentration as the game winded down.

You can say we football fans are fickle but if you witness performances such as the one the boys in yellow put in against the giant West Africans, then the shoddy performance against the Zimbabweans coupled with the indifferent performance against the North Africans, Morocco.

You were in for a roller-coaster ride for the duration of the tournament because I can tell you that we all jumped on the wagon and followed religiously when the team won the first game, jumped off the wagon completely and cursed the team when they lost.

This team may not be as gifted as the one of 1999 or even the famous Cranes teams of the 70’s, 80’s and the early 90’s but there is a lot of potential to be hopeful that one of them is going to explode into the next Ugandan superstar, already some of the boys left a mark at the tournament.