Soccer

Yet another year with little cheer for Cranes

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Uganda Cranes fans wear miserable faces during a game at Namboole.

Uganda Cranes fans wear miserable faces during a game at Namboole. The national soccer team followers endured another heart breaking year as the Cranes predictably failed to qualify for the World Cup. PHOTO BY Eddie Chicco. 

By ANDREW MWANGUHYA

Posted  Thursday, January 2  2014 at  02:00

In Summary

Rarely do Uganda chase the World Cup qualifying cause with a chance of progressing till the last day but they lasted that distance this time round, only falling to Senegal 1-0 in Marrakech.

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KAMPALA

Another year gone by, not a distant script. Uganda participated in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, just as was the case in the Africa Nations Championships (Chan). But there was little shift generally; with a repeat of the 2011 Chan qualification accomplishment just about everything there is regarding a ‘feat’ for Cranes.

The World Cup qualifying form continued a carry-over from the failed 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon). Let’s see what 2013 exactly returned to Uganda’s ambassadors.

World Cup campaign
Rarely do Uganda chase the World Cup qualifying cause with a chance of progressing till the last day but they lasted that distance this time round, only falling to Senegal 1-0 in Marrakech for the Lions of Teranga to make the play-offs, where they were bundled out by Ivory Coast.

The Cranes, having yet again failed to make the 2013 Afcon were left to fight on in the global qualifiers. Under coach Bobby Williamson, they managed just two points in the opening three games against Angola (away), Senegal (home) and Liberia (away). Serbian Micho Sredojevic replaced the Scot in May to beat Liberia, Angola (all home) and lose to Senegal (away) and the trivial hopes (trivial because you don’t just dream to the WC, you strategize for it over years) as expected came tumbling.

Bobby out, Micho in
The Cranes last year were about World Cup failure, Chan progress, Bobby sacking and Micho hiring – nothing spectacular on the pitch. In a real football world, Bobby was bound to be dismissed following a string of missed qualifiers before the 2-0 World Cup loss away to Liberia broke the camel’s back. But it has to be noted that the Scot’s dismissal was more a ‘save face’ affair from a federation that was under public pressure over their own failings in the development of the game among other ills. In came Micho, who won his first two competitive games, all WC qualifiers, before Senegal stopped Uganda’s dreams.

Game’s immorality hurt Cranes
Rarely do countries make bigger tournaments if the force of nature back home is one sharply divided one. When you have a group of Ugandan football fans caring less over Cranes qualification - others actually out-rightly against the qualification – because of general dissent over how the game is run, you know there is a serious ill with the state of the sport in the country.

And while some Ugandans genuinely want Cranes to grace bigger jamborees, others are for it precisely for the men in charge of the game, not the team. Football in simple has lost its morality, with even government shy of formally endorsing who is in charge. Unless governance issues are sorted and the country runs one wholesomely embraced league, we can as well forget any memories close to 1978.

Cecafa run & Micho gamble
For only the second time in the last six years, Uganda do not have the regional trophy in their cabinet, which cabinet has been visited by just about that trophy alone. Not that most Ugandans were waiting with unabated breath for the fifth in six years (Bobby with Uganda’s last four), but they surely wanted to see progress within the team.

Progress was indeed seen with players like Martin Mpuuga and Savio Kabugo giving a glimpse of promise in defence, Khalid Aucho making a statement in front of the back four and Daniel Sserunkuma assuring the country that he is ready material for the 2015 Afcon qualifiers.
But while those positives were noted, Micho must be hoping he made the right call when he didn’t take any of the Chan eligible strikers to Nairobi.

This Cecafa was mainly a build-up to the home-based players ahead of the tournament in South Africa but in having Sserunkuma (Gor Mahia, Kenya), Hamis Kiiza and Emmanuel Okwi (both Yanga, Tanzania) alone at Cecafa, the Serb finds himself playing novice strikers later this month without any test at a big stage.

Chan 2014
In terms of results, this was the only feat to somewhat smile about. In resoundingly eliminating Tanzania (4-1 agg), the Cranes secured their ticket to South Africa, where they have been grouped alongside Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe and Morocco.
This qualification strangely came despite the anarchy in the league back home, and the general morality of the game.

Airtel marriage
Fufa have been engaged in several corporate marriages before but nothing has bettered October’s; at least on paper. That is one front the federation seemingly made inroads, never mind playing a huge role in seeing other sponsors out of the game.
Having outlived the Cranes deal with MTN; the telecommunication company as the national team’s official sponsors, Fufa sought new pastures, landing a better deal figuratively with big rivals Airtel.

Although deeper financial breakdowns of the deal with Airtel as the new official sponsors of Cranes were not disclosed at the unveiling back in October, it is just over Shs1b per year – making it Shs4.2b over four years.

The treaty also includes sponsorship of the Ugandan Cup and the Fufa Big League (lower tier league). Of that, the Cranes are entitled to Shs950m with the Big League and Uganda Cup getting Shs100m every year over the four years.

amwanguhya@ug.nationmedia.com