Chanced upon Cranes right back Nicholas Wadada in celebratory mood following Vipers’ Cup victory over rivals SC Villa. After exchanging a few pleasantries, I went straight to the crux of the matter.
I asked the Vipers skipper why the national team is losing to all and sundry since Sebastien Desabre took over. I was only re-echoing a question posed to me once too often since Cranes lost build up matches with Niger and Central African Republic. Wadada said the French tactician should be given time to fine tune things.
This must be the agreed upon standard response from Cranes players, as team captain Denis Onyango, had echoed similar sentiments a few days earlier.
It’s clear players are buying into the French tactician’s philosophy. Only problem is - in football there is scant time for experiments. You either win, or you’re out.
Benefit of doubt
Watched Desabre’s first competitive outing - the African Nations Championship (Chan) last January with trepidation because Uganda was losing games in which they had a foothold. Like all Ugandans, I gave Desabre the benefit of doubt because Cranes were smooth on the ball. Subsequently results have me thinking he may not be the right man for the job. A football idealist? Yes. He needs a lot more pragmatism if he is to improve his 12 percent win rate.
A solitary victory in nine matches, moreover over Sao Tome, who are ranked 50th out of 53 Confederation of African Football (Caf) rankings, makes ghastly reading. Scratch deeper and you realise the French tactician’s best result has been a goalless draw with Ivory Coast in a Chan dead rubber.
Otherwise Uganda, which is rated 16th in Africa in the latest football rankings have lost to 27th ranked Niger, Central African Republic (31), Zambia (17) and Namibia (26). You can’t claim to be executing a vision when you are losing matches left, right and centre to your inferiors. The much-maligned Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic, so often pilloried for his affinity for defensive football, meanwhile had a 58 percent win rate. Between June 2013 and July 2017 when he relinquished his post, the Orlando Pirates boss won 29 out of the 51 games he managed. Whereas it’s true his defend well first only yielded 63 goals or an average of 1.2 goals per game, (his teams conceded 29 goals), his pragmatism is preferable to idealism rooted in fantasy. You can’t ask your players for a Puritan approach when they aren’t equipped with the right skills set.
Local football governing body Fufa top honchos want Desabre to be judged on his assignment detail - which is taking Cranes to the Cameroon 2019 Africa Cup Of Nations finals. They lose sight of the fact that winning and losing are both habits difficult to shake off once entrenched.
Meanwhile, Micho, who led his team to a respectable second place finish in South Africa’s Premier Soccer League; and under whose guidance Cranes beat Cape Verde away in their first CAN 2019 qualifier, has warned Cranes players not to take Tanzania’s Taifa Stars lightly. Unlike in previous years when all players were drawn from their domestic league, the core of the team ply their trade abroad. Egypt based Hamid Mao, Al Hilal’s Ulimwengu, Moroccan Botola League top scorer Simon Msuva and Belgian based Mbwana Samatta are all capable of causing Cranes problems.
The quicker Cranes players get atuned to an intense, high octane pressing game, the better. We all don’t want a repeat of the 1984 African Nations Cup qualifying debacle which saw Zamayon Mogella and Peter Tino leave Cranes fans red eyed following a 3-1 upset win at Nakivubo Stadium.