From a comfortable 4-0 win over Deliverance Church (DCK) in the National HockeyLeague (NHL) on November 30 to an embarrassing 9-2 defeat against Egypt Sharkia on December 10, at the Africa Cup of Club Champions (ACCC) in Zambia last year.
Such was the contrasting quality shock Weatherhead Gazelles, Uganda’s most experienced side at average age 31 and three continental appearances in six years, faced in just 10 days.
Never mind they could be six appearances, if ill-preparedness hadn’t ruled them out of three other editions after winning the NHL six times on the bounce.
“The quality of our national league doesn’t give us enough defensive tests so our defence is bound to suffer,” Weatherhead coach Innocent Anywar noted. They shipped in 37 and his attack scored a paltry six goals in Lusaka.
Their four losses at the continental showpiece, including a 14-0 loss to Ghana Revenue Authority, were attributed to the perennial defensive indiscipline.
Weatherhead’s listless show might not be the sole evidence of the quality, or the lack of it, of Ugandan hockey but it is part of consistently glaring patterns. Few or no lessons in terms of ultra-professional codes like training and nutrition were picked from previous ACCC editions including the 26th hosted at Lugogo in January 2014. One would do well to find a fully-fledged training session in Lugogo.
Ugandan sides continue to marvel, but with little inspiration to emulate, at the fluidity, ball retention and promotion of young talents by Kenyan, Ghanaian and Egyptian clubs.
Kenyan coach Ben Mwangi urged Ugandan coaches to be more tactically flexible and manage games better when his United States International University side won the Easter Cup here last May while Patrick Taylor, a Ghanaian with a level two coaching license, was shocked at how poor Weatherhead went about basics like passing, stopping and receiving hockey balls in Zambia.
Anywar’s counterpart at Kampala Hockey Club (KHC) Bernard Bwire, has praised the individual talents at his new club but highlighted how his predecessors failed to build teams.
The story is the same at all clubs and the talent in schools has also been subjected to problems that come with the dearth of coaches. Players from new clubs like DCK have failed to make any remarkable improvement because there is hardly any guidance.
There is hardly a certified coach in the country. Some clubs have to make do with a handful of players willing to give a hand on match days and the success registered locally, has come in spite of the men in the dugout rather than because of them.
There is talk of having ‘coaches’ emulate players who are into umpiring by starting a local committee to find remedies to their problems.
But with little help from the international (FIH) and continental (AfHF) governing bodies, a lack of opportunity thwarts those willing to do the coaching courses while local body UHA’s failure to establish contacts with more privileged hockey playing nations has also been exposed in this mess.
AfHF has insisted the academy and two elite coaches promised at the 2014 congress in Morocco will be opened before the end of this month but most will believe that, a probable game changer, only when and if it finally happens. Yet UHA can’t continue to wait.