Wednesday December 27 2017

Top moments in 2017

Winner’s smile: Rugumayo smiles for the cameras

Winner’s smile: Rugumayo smiles for the cameras moments after holding off rival Ronald Otile in a playoff to win the Open. PHOTO BY Eddie Chicco 

By Robert Madoi

It’s few years ago, when an unseemly number of Uganda’s Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaigns were pulling up marginally short, your columnist had a no holds barred interview with Jackson Mayanja. Mercifully free of the encumbrance of being Cranes assistant coach, Mayanja mapped out the contours of Uganda’s problems with a delectable candidness.

It’s that time of the year when people look back at the year that was. This as they wash down Christmas turkey with a glass of their favourite drink. Such are the optics of incurable pessimists that the proverbial glass is seen as half full.
Mercifully free of pessimism, this column -- the last of 2017 -- chooses to enjoy the firm tartness of the drink in the half full glass. And what a drink it has proved to be!

Sport thrives on moments. These moments usually produce a distinctive set of outcomes with the pendulum swinging between upbeat and sombre extremes. Against this backdrop, your columnist has selected five sporting moments in 2017 that were denied the full-throated standing ovation that was quite possibly their due.

Charles Uhuru’s try-scoring streak
A busy rugby schedule in 2017 saw one Test heaped on the back of another. As such, rugby enthusiasts got to hail a slew of tries. If you asked many of them to pick their best bits from the showreel, chances are that they will purr over Philip Wokorach breaking the ankles of Zambia’s sweeper in the Africa Sevens semifinal. Others will have limited success in choosing between the tries Ivan Magomu set up in the Gold Cup away to Kenya (Michael Wokorach) and at home to Namibia (Philip Wokorach). Make no mistake, all these were tremendous tries; certainly nothing like the mundane ones that saw Charles Uhuru go over. Yet there is something praiseworthy about the feat that Uhuru achieved in crossing the whitewash during back-to-back Tests against Kenya, Senegal and Tunisia. The feat awed this column.

Benjamin Ochan playing the false sweeper
KCCA FC pulled a rabbit out of a hat by reaching the money spinning group stage of the Caf Confederation Cup. This feat has been rightly attributed to the incredible night Benjamin Ochan had in Ismailia during the Yellow Lads’ return leg against Al Masry. The goalkeeper saved two penalties and struck the winning kick during a tense shootout. What many people forget, though, is that KCCA would never have been in a position to pull off that feat had Ochan not set up Derrick Nsibambi’s late winner in the first leg. Ball distribution is increasingly becoming a vital component in the art of goalkeeping. It is a component that Ochan has showed great mastery over in years gone by. It is also a component that many fans choose to overlook.

Hassan Wasswa proves to be of great utility
Silence has never been one of Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic’s potent tools. When Fufa reneged on picking up the Serbian coach’s salary tab, the atmosphere was always bound to be ominous. And so it proved when Micho severed ties with Fufa, running into the arms of Orlando Pirates. The marriage with the Buccaneers has gotten off to something of a rocky start, but that’s a subject for another day. While Micho was Cranes coach, he took no prisoners when it came to matters of his salary arrears as well as player selections. One of the selections that invited ridicule in the run-up to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations final was that of Hassan Wasswa. Many armchair observers couldn’t fathom what Micho saw in an overweight player who was at the time unattached to a club. Micho in fact saw in Wasswa a utility player who could do the business as a central defender or holding midfielder. The Serbian wasn’t disappointed as Wasswa repaid his faith in him with strong performances in Port-Gentil and Oyem.

Long game, short game

Your columnist was privileged to watch Ronald Rugumayo win the Uganda Golf Open Championship with arguably one of the standout individual performances in 2017.
It was in a riveting playoff that Mayo’s putter went hot. We live in a golfing age where driving distance is all the rage. Little or no heed is paid to the short game. Rugumayo reminded us that spending time at the putting green can also yield dividends.

Disability is not inability
The phrase ‘disability is not inability’ keeps being thrown around rather carelessly. It wasn’t when David Emong pushed every sinew in his body to win gold in London.
The against-all-odds win was a memorable moment for para athletes in Uganda who continue to get the short end of the stick regardless.