Of course there is not much to celebrate about progressing from the preliminaries; especially if you are KCCA, who have previously gone as far as the quarterfinals of the Caf Champions League on two occasions - in 1978 and 1982.
But still, progress should be appreciated. KCCA will now face Zambia’s Nkana Red Devils after ejecting Sudan’s El Merreikh 3-2 on aggregate (0-2, 1-2) and advance to the first round of the competition.
And for one man, coach George Nsimbe, it was yet another continental statement. Domestic success aside, not once has he come to a team and against odds taken them at least past the preliminary stage.
Having graduated from assistant to head coach of KCCA, then replacing Moses Basena in 2008, Nsimbe went on to win the league, with an 11-game winning streak in the process.
His fairytale run, in which Nsimbe enjoyed an unbeaten 18-game vein, saw fans nicknamed him ‘Best.’ Nsimbe was to embark on a magical run in the Champions League the following year in which KCCA ejected Mozambique’s Ferroviário Maputo and South Africa’s SuperSport United en route to the last 16.
Saturday’s victims, El Merreikh, ended that run eliminating Nsimbe’s side 2-1 on aggregate. He parted ways with KCC before the start of the 2009/10 season after refusing to work under Sam Ssimbwa, who had taken over during the former’s short coaching course in Germany where Nsimbe, 48, acquired an A license.
The former KCCA midfielder then joined Victors and went on to lead them to the Uganda Cup title in 2010 and again, against odds, into the first round of the Caf Confederations Cup. But having eliminated Swaziland’s Mbabane Highlanders in the preliminaries, they were ejected by DRC’s Motema Pembe.
Misapprehensions with Victors’ owners in 2012 saw him quit for the relegation-bound Fire Masters, from where he returned to KCCA, winning the 2013 league title and now into the first round of CL.
“For me he is currently the best local coach in Uganda,” says Fred Kajoba, Cranes goalkeeping coach, “George has showed the difference. Some of my fellow coaches would say his works are a fluke. I don’t think so.”
Like most, Kajoba could not bring himself to discuss Nsimbe’s tactical strengths but the current Simba tactician believes the KCCA coach’s character has a lot of bearing on his teams turn out.
“He is a very good motivator and his players believe in him.”
Former Express star and current Cranes assistant coach Kefa Kisala agrees.
“Sometimes you have poor players but deliver, or you have good players but you don’t deliver. That is where Nsimbe is good. The way he handles his players, even when they are average, is like that of a parent,” Kisala says. “Preparing them mentally, knowing each player and talking with them individually make each one of them special in a way. He is a good motivator and when they turn out, they are united and all playing for him.”
Azam and Cranes striker Brian Umony scored the winner in the 2-1 win over SuperSport in 2009 and knows what Nsimbe’s character brings.
“As a player when you are faced with a big game, naturally you are tense, especially for first timers,” Umony says. “So for me he was a calming factor when I played under him.
But Former KCCA coach Matia Lule puts Nsimbe’s continental returns down to luck.
“I think he is lucky that every side he has gone too somehow had resources both on and off the pitch. But you can’t take it away from him that he works well with his players and they also belieave in him."