Last year was quite a learning experience for Azam Uganda Premier League champions KCCA.
Coach Mike Mutebi’s side came within 10 minutes of qualifying for the lucrative Caf Champions League group stage.
Geoffrey Sserunkuma’s 30th minute goal had put KCCA on the brink of upsetting then-African champions Mamelodi Sundowns on away goals’ rule.
When Liberian forward Anthony Laffor struck that late goal, the Startimes Stadium in Lugogo didn’t sink. Everyone understands Sundowns’ quality.
The feeling could be different when they face Ethiopia’s St George at the same stage, the first round, next month.
St George, who have Ugandan goalkeeper Robert Odongkara, do not carry as big a CV as Sundowns but are more illustrious than KCCA.
They made the group stage last year and competed with Sundowns, Tunisia’s Esperance and AS Vita of DR Congo.
“They are more experienced than us,” Mutebi said of the Ethiopian side. “They love to play and will make our players think,” he added.
After that Laffor moment, KCCA fell into the Caf Confederation Cup, Africa’s second tier competition.
A return to the Confederation Cup wouldn’t be catastrophic but an upgrade is what many will want even if KCCA lost some critical players in last year’s run.
Belong to the big stage
“We have to show them that we now belong to the big stage with the big boys,” Mutebi added.
“Everyone that now comes to play KCCA does his research and will know we are not walkovers,” he said.
On the other hand, he too needs to do as much research about St George who nurtured Uganda Cranes’ captain Denis Onyango over a decade ago.
If there is one area Mutebi needs to improve from the team that knocked out Madagascar’s CNaPs on Wednesday, it’s in midfield.
KCCA did not recycle the ball without Muzamir Mutyaba, Saddam Juma and Jackson Nunda as the trio nurses injuries.