Sunday June 1 2014

Why poor road record leaves The Cranes with egg on face


By Robert Madoi

By the time of writing this piece, yours truly didn’t know the result from yesterday’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) pre-qualifier return leg match that pitted Madagascar against Uganda at Mandela National Stadium in Namboole.

Whether The Cranes qualified or not, you’ve got to say that they should be burying their head in shame. Failure to make themselves formidable on the road means that the long wait to end an Afcon drought that stretches back to 1978 could continue. The significance of winning on the road cannot be understated.

Those that have made it a habit to lord it over their hosts in Afcon qualification campaigns have reaped big.

Lamentably, with just two away victories to its name since the turn of the 21st century, Uganda hasn’t staked claim to being a road warrior. Before the Afcon 2015 qualification campaign started, this column opined that playing away to Madagascar offered a window of opportunity.

Positive attitude
Although there is no such thing as an easy opponent, your columnist thought that Madagascar wasn’t a country of such a high standing to make Cranes players quiver in their boots.

I thought that if The Cranes went to Madagascar with a positive attitude and imposed themselves, they would get a much-needed win. That win, I suggested then, would fortify The Cranes’ 2015 Afcon qualification campaign. The Cranes instead ended up being mortified after losing 2-1 to their lowly opponents. It could have been worse were it not for a dreadful penalty miss by the Malagasy.

As it is - again regardless of yesterday’s result - The Cranes have failed to shake the monkey off the back. A win at the Stade Rabemananjara in the island county of Madagascar would have infused The Cranes with the right kind of belief - the one that they can do the business away from the comfort zone that is Mandela National Stadium.

Eagle’s wings
Instead, if, as widely expected, The Cranes managed to wipe out the first leg deficit yesterday, they will go into the 2015 Afcon qualification campaign with that familiar mindset that home form can carry them on eagles’ wings.
Well, guess what, it hasn’t.

The Cranes have always done the business at home and gone on to pull up short.
You sure don’t need to be a specialist in rocketry to know that The Cranes have to step out of their comfort zone to shatter their 36-year-old Afcon duck.

If they managed to make it to the second 2015 Afcon pre-qualifying round, they need to start devising a plan on how to make winning away from fortress Namboole become a usual occurrence.
The Cranes need to stop being pigeonholed as poor travellers. Anything short of that will be fatal.

2014 World Cup Qualifiers
- Angola 1-1 Uganda
-Liberia 2-0 Uganda
-Senegal 1-0 Uganda
2013 Afcon Qualifiers
-Zambia 1-0 Uganda
-Congo Brazzaville 3-1 Uganda
2012 Afcon Qualifiers
-Angola 2-0 Uganda
-Kenya 0-0 Uganda
-Guinea Bissau 0-1 Uganda

2010 World Cup/Afcon Qualifiers
-Angola 0-0 Uganda
-Benin 4-1 Uganda
-Niger 3-1 Uganda
2008 Afcon Qualifiers
-Niger 0-0 Uganda
- Nigeria 1-0 Uganda
-Lesotho 0-0 Uganda

Uganda’s dark rugby cloud and its sliver of silver lining

Uganda’s report card in this year’s Bamburi Rugby Super Series superficially makes for grim reading. What with the Ugandan franchise sides’ (Hima Rwenzori and Protector Victoria) winless streak in the annual tournament that also involves Kenyan outfits!

That streak has put paid Uganda’s interest in the tournament well before the knockout stages take centre-stage.

A hideous opening round in which both Rwenzori and Victoria slumped to tame defeats on home soil at Kyadondo Rugby Football Club (KYRFC) set the tone for what would - in the book of Ugandan rugby faithful - be a mediocre tournament.

The yawning chasm between Rwenzori and Kenya’s Papa as well as the ‘stool’ (aka kasementi) wing Ivan Mugira received during that murky opening ‘Supa Sato’ sure left a nauseating taste in the mouth.

It got worse on the second ‘Supa Sato’ when Victoria shipped a staggering 40 points in the opening half of their duel against Ndovu in the Kenyan township of Nakuru. Everything that could go wrong was, well, going wrong! Victoria had not quite covered itself in glory during a 10-3 home loss to Chui.

The captaincy of Michael Tamale came in for some stick when the centre - at the behest of his micromanaging coach, the legendary Robert Seguya - made decisions (kick for touch as opposed for the posts) that ultimately cost Victoria dear.
The threat of a player mutiny loomed large after that loss to Chui.

Although the warring parties kissed and made up, Ndovu ruthlessly exposed the fault lines during that first-half rout in Nakuru.

Last weekend, Rwenzori, finalists from last year, needed to beat Kifaru in Nakuru to stay alive in the tournament. Despite putting up a valiant effort, Rwenzori lost to the Kenyan franchise 35-22.

Youngster Michael Omolo scored the season’s first try by a Ugandan franchise in the first half of that match. Two other tries were scored by coach Allan Musoke’s Rwenzori after recess.

But it didn’t bode well that it took three matches for a Ugandan franchise side to cross the try line. Such a litany of wrongs has squarely handed the bragging rights to our old foe, Kenya, and left us with egg on the face.

Not all is lost, though. As I proffered earlier, the report card makes for grim reading or be it superficially. The decision by the Uganda Rugby Union not to go the whole nine yards has allowed us to know how our fringe players fare when juxtaposed against Kenya’s.

Your columnist reckons this is a classic case of enduring short term pain in pursuit of long term glory.

The experience that youngsters like Ebber Aturinde, Adrian Kasito, Solomon Okia, et cetera have gotten is priceless going forward.
There is a silver lining on what has on all accounts been a dark cloud.

What we now know....

We know that things are not quite prim and proper for Riham Warriors. Two losses in their first three games of the season have kept Riham Warriors hovering in the lower reaches of men’s topflight basketball league.

We all know that it wasn’t supposed to be like this. When the Warriors recruited an experienced coach in the shape of Gad Eteu, they were expected to be formidable.

The loss of Sam Gombya to KIU Titans wasn’t supposed to have hurt the Warriors that much as, his seven foot-something frame notwithstanding, many have never really thought highly of him.

Fascinatingly, Eteu’s former employer, Krishna Falcons, is doing just fine. The only undefeated team in the National Basketball League thus far, we know that Falcons are firing on all cylinders. That combo between Stephen Omony and Syrus Kiviri seems to be taking them places.

We, however, know that it is early days yet, and, above all, the tables could be turned at the snap of a finger. Falcons take on Tiger Head Power in what should be an explosive encounter today.

We know that the result from this match will tell us if indeed Falcons have come of age.