After close to a four-hour drive from Kampala, the Uganda Cranes – escorted by police in a six-vehicle convoy, snail-paced into the Western town of Mbarara a few minutes after 1pm on Saturday.
A pickup laden with monstrous speakers, a few tens of boda boda riders in tandem; had been waiting for the visitors as the Cranes kicked off their provincial tours.
After a 15-minute drive from town, the convoy reached the region’s Shs230b ultra-modern Nile Breweries Limited plant in Ruharo, where after the tour the facility manager, Isaac Ongora, challenged the Cranes to start winning things “at the top.”
Nile Breweries are the Cranes sponsors facilitating these tours dubbed ‘Cranes Na Mutima,’ which are geared to bringing the team closer to fans.
Closer to the fans they were as they descended on Kakyeka Stadium for an exhibition match against a Western Region select side as well as mingle with their enthusiasts after the Sunday game. If the Cranes thought the hosts, whose most players are students and dream of playing for the national team in future, were going to treat them with friendly shoves, they were in for shock.
Western took everything at the Cranes, from tackles, physical fury to occasional but serious threats at their goal. But substitute Miya Farouk’s 89th minute goal broke the resolve and hearts of the rather fired up 1000 or so fans. “We played a very motivated home team,” Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic said, “They were compact in the middle and defended in numbers. “My boys didn’t hit even the 20% ability in the game. They had heavy legs due to the six days of training in Kampala. “We won but we are not satisfied. But we have laid a good foundation for the upcoming tour.”
Western XI 0-1 Cranes