Sunday January 14 2018

With Uganda’s CV, do serious coaches want The Cranes?


By Alan Tacca

Uganda’s national football team, The Cranes, has a new coach, Mr Sebastien Desabre.
Writing on page 32 in the Sunday Monitor of January 7, Mr John K. Abaho questioned Desabre’s qualifications. (See “Cranes Coach’s CV not Convincing Enough”.)

Well, as an unsentimental realist, I thought… No, I laughed: What kind of coach did Uganda’s football team actually deserve?

When Mr Abaho researched Desabre’s employment record, Wikipedia revealed a nomadic operator who had been with nine employers at club level over the last eight years. The pattern left Abaho with the impression that Mr Desabre would not have had enough time to settle in these jobs to demonstrate his skills and produce results that were clearly attributable to his effort rather than his predecessors.

Mr Abaho may be right; a national level responsibility (with The Cranes) might indeed challenge Monsieur Desabre. But Uganda is a shabby banana republic, unless one is warped enough to take its ‘Pearl of Africa’ credentials and ‘middle income’ delusions seriously.

Just as his concern or love for The Cranes led Mr Abaho to research Desabre’s CV, every serious professional coach would research both The Crane’s record and Uganda’s CV. Yes, Uganda’s CV.
The prospective coach would find that the last coach, Micho, had endured years of patience, haggling and humiliation over pay, suffering unending uncertainty between non-payment and late payments.
He would have also learned that government financial commitment regarding the team, national stadia facilities and youth development was often a song whose implementation was erratic and tuned to crisis and last moment desperation. The prospective coach would infer that his master plan would have to factor in the death of many of his plans.

The coach would have also discovered that the misery in his sphere, football, was not isolated. Cricket, tennis, hockey and several other sports were dying or struggling without in any way moving government indifference.

In track and field, at international contests, that rare animal called a Ugandan medallist usually seems to come from nowhere; a freakish ‘volunteer’ who somehow made it by their wits and gloriously mad persistence.

The prospective coach would wonder whether perhaps sports had only been temporarily lowered in the order of priorities, with the government concentrating on the more serious stuff of national life.

He would have found that the State was run by a largely uncoordinated herd of arrogant incompetents and forty thousand thieves; that health care, education, agriculture, road works and policing were even more third rate than the football.

He would have read the Internet editions of our newspapers and learned that all sorts of government employees were either on strike or threatening to strike over pay; that government pledges to solve wage issues were usually not honoured; that transparency and fair play were not our things.
What about the country’s politics?

Come on! Can’t we keep politics out of sports?
Unfortunately, no. Serious foreign coaches do not only ask questions about the team’s standing, their pay, accommodation and food. They also ask about the country’s politics.

As it happens, the latest round of big political activity suggests that a Ugandan MP needs seven years in the House, tweaking and dragging his brain before he can get it to deliver any results. It is a bad symptom.

A country like that is as lucky to get a European coach as to attract a European ‘investor’.
Fortunately, if the need to part ways arises, Monsieur Sebastien Desabre’s nomadic instincts are the perfect enablers for him to move on.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.