There was still time left on the clock. A good couple of minutes to be precise. But Senegal legend Khalilou Fadiga had had enough. In Marrakech as part of the Caf Technical Study group for Group B, the tedium that Uganda and Ivory Coast put on in the dead rubber had forced him to exit before full time.
His technical notes from that stale goalless stalemate didnt capture the final five minutes. For the last stages of that game were as disappointing as the match itself.
Uganda were atrocious. Ditto Ivory Coast. If ever a game happened where no point or points shouldn’t have been awarded, Monday’s Uganda vs Ivory Coast match was it.
In a game where Uganda had nothing to lose with elimination confirmed more than 72 hours ago and return Qatar Airways tickets to Entebbe booked for Tuesday January 23rd, the final encounter against the West Africans should have been one free of anxiety and nerves. It should have been a gung-ho, all-action affair with the team giving fans and television viewers a meaningless but memorable group encounter.
Yet what we witnessed was a timid mindset from players who were unsure of themselves. There were far too many passes between Bernard Muwanga and Mustapha Mujuzi. Centre backs Muwanga and Mujuzi seemed content with holding out for a draw while left full back Aggrey Madoi was pack predictably a nerves in his first full international.
Nicholas Wadada has appeared at so many Chan tournaments but his wayward crossing told of a player whose career may have reached a point of stagnation.
The less said of the midfielders and strikers the better. Uganda’s one goal in Morocco is a true reflection of the malaise in football in the country. For Chan and the senior Cranes team, the chronic inability to put create and put away chances has become a cancer.
Take the case of Airtel-Fufa Player of the Year Muzamir Mutyaba, a midfield schemer whose creativity in the Azam Uganda Premier League last season helped KCCA.
He was far too slow and timid and history will log in no noteworthy contribution from Mutyaba at Chan 2018, the Footballer of the Year. You can say the same for Sadam Ibrahim Juma and others.
After four Chan tournaments and just a sole victory in 12 matches, it is stern indictment on the league. The best Uganda can put together is only good enough to qualify for the competition, albeit via a less challenging knock-out format.
The team in Morocco was the best the coaching team could put out there. And even if it was not, the inclusions of the SC Villa pair Henry Katongole and Martin Kizza would not have propelled Cranes out of Group B. You can say the same for goalkeeper Thomas Ikara.
When you consider that players like Wadada, Juma, Muwanga, Mutyaba, Timothy Awany, Isaac Muleme have appeared at more than one Chan tournament but their experience accounted for nothing in Marrakech, it becomes apparent that there must be a radical shift in how clubs nurture players in the league.
The typical Ugandan league footballer is severely lacking in physical, mental and psychological preparation to compete at Chan. The problems of a Ugandan footballer differ from the ones of a Cameroon or Ivory Coast player and it would be foolhardy to think that the failings of the two West African giants at Chan 2018 sanitize Cranes limitations.
The scale of the challenge awaiting coach Sebastien Desabre is massive. The Frenchman’s job is to call the best players available but he will not solve the ingrained problem of physicality or psychological readiness in the one or two weeks he handles the players before a major competition.