Five matches, three blanks and three goals later, goal-shy Cranes find themselves on a steep cliff

Saturday March 27 2021

It is a given that productivity in football centres on abundance rather than deficit of goals. Those that choose not to put a premium on scoring goals only succeed in curling themselves into a writhing ball.

 So for those horrified at the prospect of Uganda not making the cut for next year’s Afcon finals, there are no prizes for guessing what has plunged the Cranes into new depths of anxiety.

Drawing a blank in three of the five Afcon qualifiers played has shown – more than anything – that this is a team in the grip of negative tactics. Indeed, the Cranes have succeeded in scorching the earth beneath this time round. 

Along with those three blanks, Uganda have given the impression of a team striding boldly into a situation for which it is ill-prepared by notching – wait for it – three goals in five matches played. Further number crunching shows that two of those three goals came in one match – a home fixture against Malawi’s Flames on Matchday Two.

To compound matters, the Cranes and their faithful cannot complain about inheriting a bad hand. Pooled alongside Burkina Faso, Malawi and South Sudan, many Ugandans were quick to christen Group B a ‘group of life’ (polar opposite of group of death). 

It was difficult to argue otherwise, even for the gnarly pessimists. Uganda was not expected to buckle under the weight of Malawi and South Sudan whose wilderness years are well documented.


Yet five matchdays later, a lack of precision in front of goal appears to be landing well-aimed punches on the Cranes. One dim showing after another has left the Cranes in dire straits, confronting our brand of football with a stinging challenge to its purpose. 

In case you missed the danger signs that are there in profusion, one of the most sensational sporting alchemies will be precipitated should Malawi beat Uganda in Blantyre on Monday. Observers, who are admired for bringing pragmatism and rational scepticism to conversations, have not ruled out this eventuality. And you too, dear reader, should not either.

No amount of dissembling can disguise why the Cranes are having such a hard time of it albeit in a group of life. Goal-shy footballing displays are a quintessentially Ugandan problem that predates Abdallah Mubiru or Johnny McKinstry for that matter. 

Various reasons have been offered as to why we always opt to play with the handbrake on. The common thread is that our grassroots coaching embraces a safety first approach. 
The ethos of this safety first approach eventually grab by the root. Attempts by various Cranes coaches to realign the approach of players entrusted to their care have for the most part proved to be unsuccessful.

The temptation is to pick apart every result of these coaches once their influence comes off as being diminished rather than increased. What we should in fact strive to do is be meticulous in reviewing even the smallest details.
 And, unfortunately, the granularity of these details indicate that irreparable damage is being inflicted at the grassroots level. It is at this level that our footballers are being encouraged to be reactive as opposed to proactive.

 And old habits – as an age-old dictum reminds us – die hard.
Your columnist has always thought coaches at the grassroots either too weak or eager to impress. 

Most are in over their heads… wet behind their ears. Needless to say, this is a space that Fufa should swiftly move to police. Robustly. If we want to play on the front foot at the international stage (and God knows our finger nails and calculators would die for this!), it is imperative that seeds of proactivity be sowed at the grassroots level.

Twitter: @robertmadoi