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Mark My Word

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By Mark Ssali

Posted  Monday, July 12   2010 at  18:56
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A time to host

They said it jokingly, but my friends must have been dead serious when they said Uganda would have to host the African Cup of Nations to grace it again. Hosting a major tournament does a lot more than allow you to play in it though, and needless to say I have witnessed the merits first hand in South Africa. The next two editions are taken, but from 2015 onwards the slots are still open. For Uganda a joint bid with Kenya is most logical, after all co-hosting has been in vogue since Holland and Belgium set the trend at Euro 2000 and have been emulated by Japan/Korea 2002, with the next Euro to be staged by Poland and Ukraine, while Spain and Portugal fancy an Iberian World Cup in 2018; more importantly, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon will team up for Afcon 2012.

There are not enough lines here to discuss the intrinsic worth, but the challenges of hosting Afcon do not come anywhere near those of the World Cup, and with the Kenyans playing their part, all we would need is Namboole and Nakivubo to be upgraded. Experience suggests that only an event of such magnitude will ever get us to revamp those facilities, and we have learnt a few things from Chogm surely? Please don’t drive me up the wall with the defeatist suggestion that it can’t be done.

Don’t glorify failure

South Africa will go down as one of the best host nations in World Cup history, and for what they have done the continent will be eternally indebted and grateful. While we should take all the lessons from their amazing feat to heart and use them, the one we cannot accept is their expression of happiness at the showing of the Bafana Bafana. Because they couldn’t even qualify for Afcon and got into the World Cup through football’s most open back door, the South Africans were willing to let their team off lightly for ‘trying their best’.

They should have had more ambition regardless, had no excuses for not beating Mexico, should never have capitulated like that against Uruguay and should have buried (not edged) 10-man France who were there for the taking. Time and money had been sunk into a team which had perhaps the highest paid coach in the tournament, and yet they become the first hosts to fail to reach the second round.
Ghana have more justification for celebrating, and Africa has to be thankful, but they too should be disappointed that they didn’t do better, especially since it was in their hands. Uganda too has to learn to say ‘not good enough’ and demand better.

Youth way to go

We have hailed Ghana for embracing youth and marvelled at the ability of Germany’s youngsters at the World Cup. Both countries have systems that deal ably with continuity, graduation and transition, but as Ugandans we need to further appreciate and borrow from the example of the institutions that have played an unfathomable role in the success of the tournament’s two finalists. There is no denying that Spain and Holland have reaped greatly from what Barcelona and Ajax have sown, and Europe’s best two club-run academies had several graduates on show.

Xavi represented an older generation, Iniesta, Fabregas and Pique a younger one, and then Pedro and Busquets the latest in a legendary production line at Barca.For Ajax this is a dip in standards from a celebrated conveyor belt which rolled forth Cryuff, van Basten and Bergkamp, and the current generation comes way short of the class of ’95 which had Kluivert, Seerdof, Davids and van der Sar. Yet Sneijder was in line for the golden ball, keeper Stekelenburg and defender Heitinga some the most consistent performers, with Rafael van der Vaart an impact and Ryan Babbel waiting in the wings. For Fufa, clubs and all the sprouting academies, here are two models to follow, and the catch is that they would be willing to help if only they were asked.

mark@fft-ea.com
mmssali@yahoo.com