How scattergun approach harms age grade football

Sunday September 29 2019

Innocent? Critics are already pointing a finger

Innocent? Critics are already pointing a finger at Hippos U-20 coach Byekwaso. PHOTO: JOHN BATANUDDE  

By Robert Madoi

At any rate, Uganda’s age grade football has been a roaring success in the Cecafa region. Homing in on regional titles at the U-15 and U-17 levels hasn’t been down to beginner’s luck as much as inexhaustible talents.

Against such a richly detailed and hauntingly beautiful background, many expected Uganda’s Hippos to hit a pitch of excellence during the Cecafa U-20 Challenge Cup. With the tournament being staged in Uganda, the smart money installed the Hippos as runaway favourites.

While they have not quite clattered out of the regional football showpiece, the Hippos head into today’s quarterfinal against Tanzania in worse straits. Rather than confer a badge of honour, the Challenge Cup has mined bad vibes for the Hippos. Pretty bad vibes. The danger signs are there in profusion after the hosts failed to keep a clean sheet in all their group stages, and, above all, needed sport’s disparaging trope of ‘lucky loser’ to reach the last eight.

Make no mistake, the buck, in this case, stops with Morley Byekwaso. While it has not been a case of his incompetence being a threat to all around him, as some have dared to suggest, the KCCA assistant manager has looked uniquely unprepared for the job. His in-game management has only added to the deepening sense of anxiety during matches at Pece War Memorial Stadium in Gulu. But to claim that Byekwaso is solely to blame for Hippos’ chaotic diversity that has been replete with absurdities and brilliances would be deceitful and irresponsible.

Even if Uganda gets its act together and goes all the way (and there are suggestions it could), the tentative start at the group stages shouldn’t be let to swiftly evaporate. It should in fact be disassembled and thoroughly analysed. What the diagnosis will show is that Fufa’s technical wing relies on a scattergun execution.

A disproportionate number of the current Hippos players graduated from the Cubs (U-17) team that Peter Onen qualified to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals. Would Onen or even Jackson Magera, who worked with Paa Kwesi Fabin at the finals in Tanzania, be best placed to work with the under-17 graduates? Your guess is as good as mine. Continuity should count for something on football’s dark streets.