There is no hiding place for Uganda’s female hockey side, the She Cranes.
Their results against Kenya at the just concluded Federation of International Hockey Series are reflective of their preparations and the mountain they have to climb to become a competitive national side.
Uganda had hitherto never participated in an international women’s engagement although players like Aisha Kagere have a recollection of the East Africa Cup – way before the astroturf in Lugogo was laid in 2004.
The side conceded 17 goals in the first two games at Sikh Union and there was nothing to suggest their last game, played yesterday, would end differently. Not even a spirited fight to go down fighting in a Saturday’s 6-0 defeat.
Both sides started training in January in preparation for the Africa Cup qualifiers in March in Nairobi but these were cancelled as only the two neighbouring countries had confirmed participation.
Kenya, however, seemed to welcome Africa Hockey Federation’s decision to qualify the two nations to the January 2022 finals in Ghana more than Uganda.
Theirs is a long-term project so they channelled focus to Ghana while the Uganda was left demoralised from yet another botched trip. Only 17 of the summoned players continued to train in Lugogo.
Even after the idea of the Series that will help Uganda attain a ranking was mooted, there was little coach Sandra Namusoke could do to summon more players.
In 2019, the ladies’ side had over 25 players training for the Olympic qualifiers in South Africa but nearly half pulled out of this assignment for personal reasons.
It is not even enough to look at the players only. Daily Monitor understands only two people applied to coach the ladies’ national side compared to the eight that wanted to coach the men.
Looking beyond their goals, the Kenyans ran faster, upped the tempo of their game easily whenever their coaches instructed them to.
The Ugandans, on the other hand, played at a slow pace and lacked the technical ability to play on the water-based astro-turf.
Physio Sadik Akii was a busy man pre and during the tournament and coach Namusoke had also admitted prior to making the trip that her side, with players returning from over a year of no action, was far from desired fitness level.
On pitch, Uganda glaringly missed width. With no natural wingers, the midfielders took turns to provide width. Only the versatile Joan Andika seemed to fit there.
Margaret Nassiwa, Pauline Achom and Kagere all took turns as wide midfielders but were at ease drifting centrally. Of the forwards, only Lamula Nakajjumba was happy to stretch play as Doreen Mbabazi struggled with fitness throughout.
Captain Doreen Asiimwe stood out. The biggest compliment you can pay her is that she was the only Ugandan player that would fit in the Kenyan side. Sometimes Consolate Muber looked the part, too, especially when allowed to venture forward.
But the dilemma was how to deploy the captain. Coach Namusoke mostly used her as a single pivot at the base of midfield to progress play but because she was also needed to support a sterile attack, her runs forward would leave the midfield hollow and the defence exposed.
FIH Test Series
Match 1: Kenya 11-0 Uganda
Match 2: Kenya 6-0 Uganda
Match 3: Kenya - - Uganda