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Breakthrough opportunities abound for athletes in 2014

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Uganda Cranes train in preparation for Chan due next month. The home-based players will be looking to impress at the continental tournament in South Africa. Photo by ISMAIL KEZAALA 

By Robert Madoi

Posted  Monday, December 30  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

Comment. 2014 will give us an unambiguous picture as to what kind of punch our sporting surrogates can pack.



For Uganda, 2014 will act as a subtle barometer of what, in many respects, lies ahead. It will make crystal clear what is thus far but a blur. The forthcoming year will give us an unambiguous picture as to what kind of punch our sporting surrogates can pack.
We will get a snapshot of how life is when Stephen Kiprotich isn’t turning out for Uganda at the global stage. Kiprotich has made his intentions of not running in the 2014 Commonwealth Games known to all and sundry.
So, with the Olympic and World champion recharging his batteries, who will step in his large spikes? Conventional wisdom suggests that Kiprotich’s training mate, Jackson Kiprop, is well-placed to assume the mantle.
Kiprop held his own at the Moscow World Championships and New York Marathon, thereby proving that he is no spring chicken.

With the Ethiopians not featuring in the Commonwealth Games, and only the Kenyans to worry about, Kiprop will go to the Scottish city of Glasgow fancying his chances.
Spring chicken he may not be, but counting Kiprop’s chicks isn’t the most judicious of decisions.
It’s worth noting that Kiprop is the very embodiment of a pacemaker. Granted, he won the Mumbai Marathon after initially playing out the unsung role of pacemaker. But can the Prisons marathoner make lightning strike twice? I don’t have a crystal ball in my possession, but reckon Kiprop has an outside chance. The other set of people who will be under the spotlight in 2014 will be Uganda’s party at the African Nations Championship (Chan).

The tournament, which only gives the green light to home-based footballers, will open its curtains on January 11, 2014 in South Africa’s Western Cape. Pooled in Group B alongside behemoths Morocco, Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso, Uganda will doubtless have its work cut out. The vagaries of the country’s topflight league(s) may yet take a toll.

Whatever the case, we will have a chance of assessing the attributes of tomorrow’s stars when Chan gets underway.
And who knows, a good audition may get a previously unknown quantity figuring in Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic’s plans when the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers start in the second half of 2014.
Elsewhere, in cricket, young blood in the shape of Farouk Ochimi (who thoroughly impressed during Marylebone’s tour of Uganda) will also get a chance to throw a hat in the ring.

It will be that sort of year, one that offers a raft of breakthrough opportunities.
Best wishes to all these sporting johnny-come-latelies, and indeed to you dear reader, in 2014!

Same old story in lukewarm year
It’s that time of the year when we look back and summarily take stock of what has transpired within the calendar year. Sporting-wise, you’ve have to say that it was yet another underwhelming year.
The Cranes wrote yet another ‘so close yet so far’ footnote in their memoir of near-misses; the men’s national cricket team found wins hard to come by during the ICC T20 Global Qualifier; the Rugby Cranes hideously capitulated to bitter adversaries Kenya in the CAR Cup; the men’s national amateur golf team contrived to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at the East African Golf Challenge in the Kenyan township of Naivasha; the men’s national volleyball team saw its FIVB World Cup dream -- predictably, some would hasten to say -- fall flat on its face; etc.

There were the odd bright spots -- take Stephen Kiprotich’s victory at the Moscow World Championships -- but even in those illuminating showings headlights seemed to dim at some point. Kiprotich whined, and rightly so, about government dragging its feet on the issue of replicating Kenya’s Iten training camp in Kapchorwa.
Then there was the gut wrenching story of the national netball, the She Cranes. No-one seemed to notice their huge potential. No-one seemed to care that they travelled thousands of kilometres by road from Kampala to Blanytre, Malawi, to play in the African Netball Championship. Neglect from those who should be fending for them has seen the She Cranes become some sort of byword for backs-against-the-wall storylines.

There was nothing really novel about how Uganda’s sports stories unfolded this year.
That familiar cocktail of the good, bad and ugly continued holding sway. Predictably, the bad and ugly gave the good a run for its money. The key thing now is to get the good outweighing the bad and ugly rolled in one.
Sports personalities contend that their treatment has to markedly change. They want better stipends as the strikes by the national cricketers and footballers showed. Government retorts that it’s starting to treat sports personalities like they matter.

The President offered some juicy pledges to sports personalities that fare well on the continental and global stages, they add. I say that this approach is a tad too scattergun for my liking. It’s also not that clear cut. Going forward, this haze has to be cleared if Uganda has any intentions of being a force worth reckoning with.

what we now know...

We know that, well, Lawrence Mulindwa is the Fufa Honorary President and possibly more. Mulindwa decided not to seek re-election to local football’s biggest office mid this year, giving Moses Magogo the blessing to take over the reins. Magogo has, however, hardly been his own man, staying under the shadow of his immediate past President.

For instance, we know that while Magogo (below) was open, even enthusiastic, about the warring factions from the Fufa Super League and those of the Uganda Super League holding roundtable talks; the Honorary President sharply begged to differ. The talks have since, surprise, surprise, fizzled out.

We know that Magogo has not yet degenerated into a marionette, but that he is losing the trust of Fufa delegates who have watched him being literally swallowed by Mulindwa’s giant shadow. It will be interesting to see how Magogo’s fate pans out in 2014.