- The issue: Playing in African football.
- Our view: The heart and soul of the game anywhere in the world is club football. You can’t have a strong national team if your league is sub-standard.
On Saturday, Uganda’s two continental representatives KCCA and Vipers suffered agonising eliminations in the Caf Champions League and Caf Confederation Cup respectively.
KCCA went down 3-2 on aggregate to South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns while Vipers were knocked out by Platinum Stars, also from South Africa, by the same score.
KCCA came within nine minutes of becoming the first Ugandan club side to play in the prestigious Caf Champions League, a feat that would have earned them a minimum of Shs1.9b.
Vipers’ exit was even more cruel given that they conceded a penalty in stoppage time that decided their fate.
KCCA and Vipers no doubt spent most of yesterday wondering what might have been had they held on in those crucial late minutes that cost them.
Vipers are now out but KCCA are demoted to the Confederations Cup.
The real winner at the weekend was Uganda club football.
KCCA can took solace in the fact that they matched reigning African champions Mamelodi Sundowns home and away.
The Lugogo-based side is very much a work in progress but by holding Pitso Mosimane’s side, which competed at the World Club Cup only three months ago, they showed that they are gaining the maturity required to compete at that stage.
In four continental games (two against Primeiro de Agosto and Mamelodi Sundowns), KCCA competed like equals and exited without harming their pride.
The same can be said of Vipers who played as many games against Comoros’ Volcan de Moron and Platinum Stars and gave a good account.
Erasing the gap between Africa’s powerhouses and the have nots of now like KCCA will take time. But when you consider that club football today, which had been in a downward spiral a few years ago, is on the rise, Ugandan football can only win.
The heart and soul of the game anywhere in the world is club football. You can’t have a strong national team if your league is sub-standard.
But with KCCA and Vipers hosting continental games in their own full-to-capacity stadiums and billions flowing into the game from a host of sponsors, there is founded hope that our football can become great again.
Twenty six years ago, SC Villa were losing finalists in the Africa Club Championship to Tunisia’s Club Africain. The following year Villa reached the final again of the defunct Caf Cup.
KCCA and Vipers are aware that there will be more opportunities to compete on the continent.
It is a message that should resonate with all other clubs in the league.