Sunday June 1 2014

Fortress Namboole

Jubilating Uganda Cranes fans  during

Jubilating Uganda Cranes fans during the 2010 Afcon campaign at Namboole Stadium. Photo by Eddie Chicco  

By Andrew Mwanguhya

Kampala- You have to take a trip back to October 10, 2004, just after the hour, for the goal that still stands in defiance of Uganda Cranes and Namboole.

It was the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign when striker Benni McCarthy stepped forward to score the game’s and South Africa’s only goal as the Bafana Bafana ran out 1-0 winners.

Since then, the Cranes have won each and every international qualifier (in 90 minutes) save for the 2014 World Cup qualifying 1-1 draw with Senegal and the goalless stalemate with Kenya in the 2012 Nations Cup campaign.

But what really is special about the 40,202-seater capacity Namboole that suddenly lifts the otherwise poor travelling Cranes even against the mighty Nigeria, who they beat 2-1 in the 2008 Nations Cup qualifiers?

“The support,” says David Obua, scorer of 15 goals in just over 30 Cups for Cranes, most of them coming in the unbeaten era. “When it’s filled to capacity, boom! Game over,” adds the now retired forward, who was also part of that team that lost to South Africa in 2004.

Another great servant for Uganda that experienced that unbeaten period is righback Simeon Masaba.

“Right players have been picked for right games,” he explains, “Right players with the right attitude. “And then of course the supporters, they have been special to us.”

“The players also have a special bond in the dressing room and on the pitch.
“We know that we have left families behind and some of our families are there watching so we have to do everything for them, we have to give everything for the fans.”

Masaba, whose last involvement was in the 2013 Afcon qualifiers, adds: “At Namboole the players are also more comfortable and play without fear. It’s like in your house; you surely are more comfortable and authoritative in your house.

“It has got into the brains of players over time that unless otherwise, we must win at Namboole. We know there is no excuse if we don’t.”

Fred Kajoba is the Cranes goal keeping coach. “I’m glad to be part of the Cranes that have been unbeaten at Namboole in my last eight years with the team,” he says.
“Namboole is very special to us, the players and fans, Players feel it that they have no excuse but to win at Namboole. Even when things are really difficult, like against Kenya, we keep pushing.”

Goalkeeper: Posnet Omwony
Defenders: Timothy Batabaire (yellow card) Ibrahim Sekagya, Shaka Okello (82’ Peter Lwebuga)
Nestroy Kizito
Midfielders: Assani Bajope, Mohamed Nsubuga,
James Odoch
Forwards: Phillip Ssozi (53’ Hakim Magumba)
Robert Ssentongo (65’ Hassan Mubiru), David Obua