Last week, the Fufa Executive approved that our U-20 team, the Hippos, represent Uganda at this years’ Cecafa tournament to be held in Ethiopia. This is at once interesting and visionary.
But the obvious question that follows will be why are we subjecting those talented boys to the disgrace of a tournament with one foot in the grave?
For a long time now Cecafa has demonstrated that it is a tournament lacking in imagination. Each year we hawk it around the region to disinterested hosts because it bears no meaningful developments.
It remains just an annual showdown that comes smack in the middle of the season, so much so that no professional club does let go of its players for national duty as should be the case.
That explains why many nations field their B and C teams. We have become essentially uninterested, in ways that no one wants to admit. It could be because there are more prestigious competitions to go for like Afcon or Chan.
But that apathy could also be because we have bossed our neighbours for so long that it is beginning to feel like we are a big fish in a small pond. The thing is there are so many times one can pound the Ethiopia ‘B’ and Zanzibar’s of this world before questions about motivation crop up.
For instance, why is that we as apparent kings of the region still find ourselves struggling to make it beyond our domain? Why are we not going to Afcon 2021 if we are that good? Why have we fallen back to our old ways so quickly? Is it due to matters of poor technical development and rotten football politics? Or put more bluntly, is it that our collective national psyche is un-ambitious?
Because that is what our dominance at Cecafa and our failures beyond that, make it look like. We appear as a people who are comfortable with a particularly low ceiling.
So, the way I see it, we could either settle for this passiveness or start to be creative about our dominance.
We need to understand both the random factors and deliberate efforts that explain why everything that comes together during Cecafa also falls apart once we step on to the next level. We should harness all those measured and unintentional efforts that we believe contribute to our success in Cecafa and incorporate those into our Afcon preparations. We need to make Cecafa count! And Fufa is helping us understand how.
Cecafa can be the laboratory we use to test new players and launch the new methods we believe will carry us beyond regional excellence. It can become our proof of concept.
So Fufa aren’t punishing the U-20 for being runners-up at the U-20 Afcon. Instead, it is preparing them for bigger things. Cecafa 2021 could be the start on a journey that ensures we monitor the progress of these boys – keep them together as a team on their way to the senior Cranes team. It allows us to avoid the mistakes of the past where more talented teams like the 1999 All Africa Games fell off the radar due to lack of a proper follow up plan.
And the catch here is that the attraction of The Hippos would stem the growing disinterest in Cecafa. Their involvement eliminates the risk of the tournament degenerating into one viewed as a waste of everyone’s time.
Instead, we could start to view it as the breeding place of young teams, ideas and methods that carry us forward as opposed to the yoke that holds us motionless, all cocky and going nowhere.