Thursday January 30 2014

U-20 bungle leaves Fufa shamefaced

Cranes coach Micho and his charges, including Tonny Maweje

Cranes coach Micho and his charges, including Tonny Maweje will have to play preliminary games on their way to Morocco 2015. However, the U-20 team will not take part in continental soccer next year. PHoto By ISMAIL KEZAALA  

By Andrew Mwanguhya

So a month of forgettable returns in cricket, football and hockey among others is completed by Uganda.

January also came with the news that for the first time since July 2000, Uganda will play into preliminaries of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. This, on top of some other muddle in the U-20 national team.

Then in 2000, the Cranes had to negotiate past Malawi – home and away – before booking themselves into the group stage, from where they failed to make it to the 2002 edition in Mali.

Now coach Micho Sredojevic’s side have to do the same against a yet-to-be known opponent between May-August before they can make the group stages proper in September. It’s from the group stage that 15 teams will join next year’s Afcon hosts - Morocco.

Cranes predicament comes thanks to poor performances in two previous Afcon and 2014 World Cup qualifying campaigns. Actually, it is fair to say that had the same criterion been used by Caf over the years, Uganda would have been a fixture in preliminaries.

But that is besides the point. The point is that Cranes showed interest by registering to be compete in next year’s continental showpiece.

Yet, even after Cricket Cranes finishing 10 out of 10 in the ICC World Cup qualifiers in New Zealand - a feat that earned them a demotion into Division III, hockey clubs self-distracting at an African Club Championship hosted by Uganda, Uganda Cranes group stage dismissal in Chan and the Afcon preliminary tale; we still have some story to tell in the underage sports setting.

While Fufa registered Uganda for the 2015 Afcon and U-17 tournaments, we were conspicuously absent from the U-20 Championships.

Yet, just about every nation in Cecafa including Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia and Tanzania have registered for all championships (U-17, 20 and Afcon 2015).

The argument from Fufa is they are stretched and do not have the budget to compete in the U-17, U-20 and Afcon 2015.

This argument might be right. Countries like Ghana and Nigeria which grace these tournaments religiously have full government support.

But it also true that their federations’ legalities are not questioned and their topflight leagues are in unison. The funny situation here has left government, whose full commitment toward sports could be questioned, playing ping pong with everyone but themselves.

The other case being fronted is Fufa chose to register participation in the U-17 because the same players would graduate into the U-20s with time.
Granted, the U-17s elsewhere graduate to the U-20s, and the latter grow into the U-23 and eventually national team.

But does this mean we currently have no U-20s? Affirmative. Otherwise we would have registered for the qualifiers.

Some pathetic argument from one of Fufa’s champions on one of the social networks went like: “The reason is our U-17, which would have been now U-20, did not play for the past four years due to Caf ban.” How now?

Okay Uganda were banned for two years in 2010 for fielding an overage player in the U-17 qualifiers. But does that mean players have not been developing since or Fufa simply stopped monitoring their progress? But again, it is difficult to monitor something whose structures are not in place.

To me, this whole U-20 muddle tells a true picture of our focus as country, or lack of it. If Fufa is going to sit and hope for miracles in the senior Cranes, they can as well go to sleep.

It is a clear admission that as a country we have failed to get a model that suits us and we just do not seem to see past our comfort zone.

It is a clear indictment on our lack of structures from junior through to the national team, structures that check age cheating and allow effortless transformation from one stage to another. We need to satisfy the demands of the youth structures if we are to reap.

Parliament should end this circus

The past week or so has seen the Education and Sports Committee in Parliament grill ex-Fufa officials and the current ones over allegations of forming Fufa Ltd.

The Uganda Footballers Association (UFA) petitioned Parliament over how the game is being managed. So far, Uganda Super League (USL) chairman Kavuma Kabenge, Fufa General Secretary during the late Dennis Obua’s regime, Haruna Mawanda, and NCS secretary Jasper Aligawesa have all appeared.

Yesterday also saw Moses Magogo and his executive appear to try and defend Fufa Ltd. In their defence, Fufa Ltd was formed just as a business arm of the federation, and does not run football, although it is signatory to Fufa contracts.

And this after Aligawesa admitted to owning Fufa Ltd a day earlier and disowning it the next. How amazing!

But anyway, not that all that is being raised in Parliament now is new. The Task Force formed by the Education and Sports Ministry last year already discovered this, only that implementation of recommendations momentarily hit a dead end.

However, with affidavits being sworn in Parliament, the House should be in position put to an end this jumble that our football is muddled in.

It is for the general good of the sport, both socially and commercially, that the country is back to one front. And we cannot get to that front for as long as these legal and governance issues remain in balance.

amwanguhya@ug.nationmedia.com, @TheLoveDre on Twitter

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