If Ugandan sports fans are not to be squeezed like a lemon in 2018, wide-ranging changes will have to be offered an eager embrace.
There was a palpable hesitation to do just that in 2017. Full of filth and fury, the year that’s just ended developed a proclivity for hurling lemons.
While a jug of lemonade was handily extracted, its bitter aftertaste was as unmistakable as it was repulsive. Take KCCA FC, they were nine minutes away from reaching the money-spinning group stage of the Caf Champions League. Then net-minder Benjamin Ochan fisted a routine cross into the path of Anthony Laffor.
Laffor’s fiercely struck late equaliser translated into life giving KCCA FC the proverbial lemons. Whereas lemonade was freshly squeezed after KCCA FC reached the business end of the Champions League’s second cousin, the Confederation Cup, Mike Mutebi and his charges were left wondering what might have been had Ochan not dropped a clanger.
Redemption dues could be paid this year. A favourable draw has left KCCA FC in the box position as far as reaching the Champions League’s group stage is concerned. They won’t admit it openly, but the Ugandan champions will doubtless fancy their chances against the non-entity that is CNaPS Sport from Madagascar.
Should Mutebi’s charges jump that preliminary round hurdle, a first round tie against either Saint George (Ethiopia) or Wau Salaam (South Sudan) beckons. The winner of that first round tie will join 15 other clubs in constituting the group stage of the 2018 Caf Champions League.
On paper, KCCA FC should look resplendent wearing the favourites’ tag. But with the grapevine spewing talk of a player ‘exodus’ during the January transfer window (Derrick Nsibambi, Ochan and Isaac Muleme could be moved on), one cannot help but wonder if a game of Russian Roulette is being played here.
Speaking of which, the Uganda Sevens and three of its players played Russian Roulette last year. Thankfully, the bullet didn’t tragically go off for both.
After putting in shifts at the Oktoberfest Sevens, Ramathan Govule, Fred Odur and Brian Kikawa did a disappearing act. They have since assimilated into the mainstream of German club rugby.
The Uganda Sevens also didn’t miss them that much as the last-gasp win of the Africa Sevens at Zimbabwe’s expense attests.
This year will see Uganda Sevens players live out of a suitcase. Trips to Hong Kong, Gold Coast (Australia) and San Francisco (USA) have been pencilled in.
After spending the first weekend of April featuring in the World Series Qualifier in Hong Kong, Australian customs officers will rubber stamp another leaf in the Ugandan players’ passports. This as the Uganda Sevens play in their first Commonwealth Games since 2006.
The worry is that many Uganda Sevens players will go AWOL after the Games climax in Gold Coast. If this indeed happens, Uganda’s hopes of putting on a show at the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco will be vastly compromised.
Besides the Caf Champions League, World Series Qualifier, Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens, a slew of other sporting events will hold Ugandans spellbound in 2018. Four of the five remaining 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers will for one be played this year.
The Cranes host Tanzania in September before facing Lesotho in a crucial doubleheader between October 10-13. Uganda will then host Cape Verde on November 16. By that time, barring a disaster of epic proportions, Sebastien Desabre’s side should have snapped up one of the two 2019 Afcon berths up for grabs.
While it promises to be plain sailing for The Cranes, the men’s national basketball team will have its work cut out during the 2019 Fiba Basketball World Cup qualifiers. The Silverbacks — as the team is known — will need to finish in the top three echelons of a group comprising Nigeria, Mali and Rwanda to reach the final World Cup qualifying round.
It promises to be an action-packed year! Will champagne, and not lemonade, be poured on the rocks? Hopefully.
Federation drop the ball with the appointment of Desabre
When Fufa severed ties with Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic last year, it did not feel like The Cranes were drifting inexorably towards a crossroads. The senior national football team in fact appeared to be back to its zestful best when a 1-0 win over Egypt had it flirting with World Cup qualification.
The purple patch emboldened interim Cranes coach Moses Basena to throw his hat in the ring.
While Basena was confident of landing a substantive appointment, the deeply held notion was that he was going to be sorely disappointed. And so it turned out.
Last week, amidst lots of fanfare, Fufa unveiled Sébastien Desabre as new Cranes coach. The 41-year-old Frenchman was touted as the jack in the box that will take Uganda places.
It is neither easy nor sensible to disentangle the optimism the appointment has invited.
Desabre may not have much grasp about the contours of international football (he’s managed clubs throughout his career), but his is a glamorous appointment.
The timing of the coach’s appointment, nevertheless, reflects a less glamorous truth: A sheer lack of planning.
This column has previously enumerated the positives of having a Ugandan coach at the driving wheel during tournaments like the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup and African Nations Championship.
Local chance better
Your columnist has argued that such an approach essentially helps build capacity. Fufa has in its wisdom decided not to buy into this column’s line of thought.
While there is nothing wrong with this, asking a substantive appointment to call the shots at the 2018 African Nations Championship (Chan) just days after taking the reins is sure to be associated with unwarranted confidence and impudence. It is also bound to get a bad rap, deservedly so.
So much for planning! If Fufa wanted Desabre to wield The Cranes’ coaching reins in Morocco, conventional wisdom suggests that an appointment should have been made before the 2017 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup got underway.
Why not Basena?
The tournament would have been a handy learning curve for the substantive appointment, wouldn’t it?
If the unavailability of Kalushya Bwalya (tasked with heading the committee that eventually Uganda Cranes coach hopefuls) initially stalled the process, then maybe Fufa should have let Basena (his obvious deficiencies notwithstanding) call the shots at Chan 2018.
Desabre would then watch on from the sidelines, identifying which players would be of great utility during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Such a hands-on assignment would certainly benefit Basena more than the coaching course that will — thanks to Fufa — take him to USA.
What we now know....
We now know that renowned cricket umpire Francis Ekalungar is no more after his corpse turned up badly burnt in what increasingly resembles a heist.
We know that Ekalungar — besides diligently serving as an account at Case Hospital — stood in a number of international cricket matches.
Your columnist remembers him as a man who ould be accused of being short-fused.
He was calmness personified and will be sorely missed.