When Mali stunned Uganda with a buzzer beater to win a 2019 Fiba World Cup qualifier 79-76, the heads of the vanquished were widely expected to drop – as indeed they did.
In fact, the picture sketched by a Ugandan official, who was in Bamako on liaison duties with the Silverbacks, was one of crestfallen players.
It is said the hallmark of a good team shows itself true in the response afforded to setbacks and adversity. The Silverbacks laid claim to being a good team last Sunday by showing the requisite bouncebackability after a heart-rending defeat. The 79-63 win over Rwanda showed – if there was any doubt – that the Uganda has the mental fortitude to compete at the highest level.
The Silverbacks will need to continue tapping into this intangible during the second set of 2019 Fiba World Cup Group B qualifiers due to take place in June. A top three finish in the group will send Uganda to the second and final round of the qualifying event.
Uganda’s mental fortitude of course owes a lot to the fact that it has in its ranks players like Stanley Ocitti and Robinson Opong who thrive in clutch moment. The mosaic that the team has put together after figuring in two AfroBasket championships (2015 in Tunisia and 2017 in Senegal where blowout defeats were pleasingly avoided) is beauty personified.
The keenest promoters of consistency would no doubt appreciate what local basketball governing body Fuba has done on a shoestring budget. With the team on track to play a raft of World Cup qualifying matches – possibly until February of 2019 – it is imperative that government comes through with a public show of support. This column has always held that Ugandan sport is about much more than just football.