When Uganda and Kenya still draped the Union Jack, they played their first international football in Nairobi on May 1, 1926. That match ended one-all, but six years later, Uganda would record their biggest ever win in history against their bitter rivals. That 13-1 scoreline might never be replicated in this derby in the near future, but each of the 21 technicians who have braved the Cranes dugout for the last 43 years would certainly relish guiding the current crop of Cranes players in the most explosive derby ever between the neighbours. But who were the men in the Cranes dugout?
Burkhard Pape (1968-1972)
The Germany right winger became the first professional manager to handle the Cranes when he was appointed in 1968. The 79-year-old joined from a two-year role guiding Sierra Leone but left when his contract expired in August 1972, having won 41 out of the 70 games in charge, drawn 14 and lost 13. He joined Egypt. The Germany believed in shaping for the future. A few years ago, Burkhard returned to Uganda and toured youth system.
David Otti (1973-1974)
Pape’s successor was one of Uganda’s most respected coaches and one of the most decorated persons in Ugandan football. He was born in Gulu, northern Uganda, and he passed on March 3, 2011. Otti’s Cranes won the first ever Cecafa title for the Cranes in 1973 but a string of poor performances, he was relegated to assistant role when another German tactician Westhoff Otto (1974-1975) was hired. But in an inter-change of managers, Otti was drafted in again in 1975. Again, the tactical acumen that he exuded in later years at club level, especially at Express, eluded him then, as the Cranes finished bottom of table in the group stage of Nations Cup qualifies for the Addis Ababa 1976. He was fired again, only returning into the fold as assistant coach in his later life.
Peter Okee (1976-1981, 1983)
A few months into the dugout and Okee won the 1976 Cecafa title. This set a good omen that would see him guide the team he retained from his predecessor in a successful Cecafa defence in 1977. The climax of the good omen came in Accra, Ghana, in 1978 when Okee led the team to the Nations Cup. The Cranes sailed on to the finals, where they lost 2-0 to hosts Ghana.
It is that milestone that the nation has eluded the nation for 34 years. Strangely, the failures we have become accustomed to started with the 1979 liberation war. Many players were jailed and others flee to exile. By 1981, the Cranes could not even impress in Cecafa, and Okee left for a coaching course in Germany. He returned in 1983, but the success of 1978 eluded him again, despite his Germany training. The Cranes finished third at the 1983 Cecafa, and with from the Nations Cup and World Cup qualifiers at the hands of Tanzania and Zambia, respectively, proved too much for Okee. The end came when he failed to hold onto a 4-1 home win in Algiers to lose 3-0 to Algeria in the 1984 Olympic qualifier.
Bidandi Ssali (1982)
He had a cameo relationship with the dugout when Okee left. The politician we know today was the Cranes team manager from 1976, the reason he was drafted in. It was not such a bad decision, as Bidandi guided his new team to the 1982 Cecafa Cup final in Kampala, losing to Kenya in post-match shoot-outs.
George Mukasa (1984-1985)
He brought the kawowo style of play to Cranes when he took over in 1984, but even then, the the entertain football could not produce desired results in Cecafa as Cranes lost the semi to Malawi. It was the first time Cranes failed to make a final appearance in Cecafa on home turf. Mukasa was sacked in October 1985.
Barnabas Mwesiga (1986-1988)
He blew one chance after another and oversaw a lethargic Cranes outfit, who could not even manage a Cecafa title during his tenure. Mwesigwa, now a Baseball administrator, was eventually relieved of his duties after failing in the 1988 Seoul Olympic qualifiers.
Robert Kiberu (1988-1989)
Eleven years of Cecafa drought meant Kiberu had to feed a starved outset. But after failing in Malawi in 1988, returning without a win in the group stage, he had to convince his employers with a strong performance in World Cup qualifiers. This was too much for Kiberu, whose team again lost in the preliminary round to Malawi. Kiberu was sacked. He passed away on May 5, 1990, a day after guiding Express in a league match at Tororo.
Polly Ouma (1989-1995)
He became the first ex-international to take up the mantle of managing Cranes. He was appointed along with another 1978 hero Tinmothy Ayiekoh as his assistant. The former Cranes skipper enjoyed a run of illustrious performances, including a finals appearance at the Kuwaiti invitational and recapturing the Cecafa title in Nairobi to end the 12-year drought. Ouma’s outfit retained the title in 1990 but failed on home soil a year later. His disappointment was confounded when Cranes could not make it to the 1992 Nations Cup in Senegal.
But when Uganda recaptured Cecafa the same years and produced a run of form that started the bridesmaid syndrome still loathed today—when Adam Ssemugabi missed a penalty in the goalless draw with Nigeria at Nakivubo, Ouma had the 1996 Nations Cup in South Africa to bury the ghost of Nakivubo failure. Egypt walloped the team 6-0 in the final qualifying match. Ouma sensed danger and resigned.
Timothy Ayiekoh (1995-1996)
When Ouma quit, Ayiekoh was elevated. His first challenge was a disappointment when Cranes lost the 1995 Cecafa Cup in Kampala. Ayiekoh resigned on June 5, 1996, and settled in Kakira where he is still the sports officer. After Laszlo Csaba resigned from Cranes in 2008, Ayiekoh was appointed coach, but it proved a wacky appointment as he was at the time admitted to hospital. Journalists who went to interview the ‘new Cranes coach’ would find him on drip at Jinja Hospital. Fufa rescinded the appointment the following day.
Asuman Lubowa (1996-99)
He cut his teeth with the Kobs at Cecafa Cup in 1995. A finals berth was enough to convincen Fufa that Lubowa was good to replace Ayiekoh. But he lost home and away against Angola in the 1998 World Cup preliminaries. The Nations Cup qualifier was even worse, with another humiliation in Ethiopia, and the Nations Cup 2000 qualifier would prove decisive for him. Cranes finished bottom of the table in a group featuring Tunisia, who drubbed Cranes 6-0. Lubowa resigned in April 1999.
Paul Hasule (1999, 2001-2003)
Lubowa’s Nations Cup campaign was to be completed by his assistant Paul Hasule, who started off well with a 1-0 victory over Liberia, a match fans spent more time waiting for super star George Weah, who arrived late. The Cranes still lost out on a berth to Guinea. Fufa, meanwhile, showed it’s ugly face by entrusting more in Hasule’s assistant, Paul Ssali. After his sacking in December 1999, he bounced back for a second role in 2001. This time round, it lasted two years, until Fufa agained brought its ugly politics when they fired Hasule on the back of a draw in Kigali. The Cranes needed just a win in Namboole (and then fly to Kumasi to play then shambolic Ghanaian side they had pipped at Namboole in the first leg--they drew in Kumasi) to qualify for the 2004 Nations Cup. But Fufa brought in Argentine Pedro Pasculli (2003), who oversaw the embarrassing juju match in 2003.
Harrison Okagbue, 1999-2001
The Nigerian was spotted by the National Council of Sports. On his menu was the Nations Cup in Mali, but after impressing in Cecafa and Castle cups, he was humbled by Senegal and Togo in AFCON proper. Sacking beckoned.
Pedro Pasculli (2003)
The deal that brought the Argentine on May 17, 2003, was suspicious. Fufa used Italian marketing firm, Euromarkint, to engage the Argentina 1986 World Cup star, whose monthly salary alone ($8,000) caused an uproar, with critics arguing that a local coach would earn one-eighth of that figure. Then Pasculli could not speak English; neither was he willing to learn. Fufa hired for him translator.
His first assignment was also his last as Rwanda beat Cranes 1-0 at Namboole on June 7. Pasculli sneaked out of the country a week later and returned to his base in Italy. His chapter was closed.
Leo Adraa (2003-2004)
In came Adraa to handle the last group match on June 22 in Kumasi. The Cranes drew 1-1 to bow out of the 2004 campaign. Adraa continued with the team for the 2006 Nations Cup and World Cup qualifier games, but he was withdrawn from the dugout in a silent manner when Charles Namakoola led the Kobs-dominated team to victory in Cecafa in 2004.
Mike Mutebi (2004)
By this time, the dugout was more of a fray and in stepped youthful Mike Mutebi to guide the team through the Africa Cup/World Cup double header in a group including Ghana, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and DR Congo. The Cranes won the first game against DR Congo in Namboole. But chaotic Fufa connived to turn the campaign, whose leaders would qualify for Germany 2006 and runners-up AFCON, on its head. It was that time Cranes professionals skipped games. Another flop and Mutebi was sacked.
Muhammed Abbas, 2004-06
The Egyptian was appointed by Denis Obua and sacked by Lawrence Mulindwa. He started his tenure jointly with Mutebi and took over control after a loss to South Africa in Kampala. But a string of losses, including a 4-0 thumping in Kinshasa, saw the sacking of the most controversial appointment after that of Nigerian Okagbue..
Csaba Laszlo (2006-2008)
Current Fufa president Mulindwa’s first signing in 2006. The Germany-born Hungarian tactician narrowly missed the Nations Cup despite winning all home matches, including the famous 2-1 victory over Nigeria that was driven by euphoria following a heart-breaking draw in Lagos when Cranes were denied a genuine goal. Csaba became a household name. Another World Cup/ Nations Cup double header beckoned and he was fancied to pull through in a scrappy group featuring Angola, Benin and Niger. Cranes did not lose at home and pulled a draw in Angola, but Csaba resigned in the middle of the campaign in 2008 to take charge of Hearts FC of Scotland.
Bobby Williamson (2008-Present)
Bobby’s first match compounded fears of critics, who said at his appointment that he lacked the tactical experience to handle Cranes. He was picked from soccer obscurity that was Chester City, a team that went on to formally wind up in March 2010. But his recent push with the Cranes means he can do what other 20 coaches have failed to do. It’s a historical kick-off.