Uganda and Rwanda is never without anecdotes. Be it political, way of life or sport.
From President Paul Kagame, who once served in the Ugandan army, through to Ugandan-turned Rwandan footballer Meddie Kagere, to countless interconnected families between the two countries, it is a relationship impossible to divorce.
From football to basketball to volleyball, both club and national teams savour having one over the other.
And now the two national football teams come up against each other at a time political tensions between the two countries are at a high, with each accusing another of harbouring bad elements with an intention to hurt each other.
Fortunately, the Uganda Cranes and Rwanda Amavubi Stars face off miles away from east Africa as both open their African Nations Championship (Chan) campaign in the Cameroonian city of Douala tonight.
The ‘Juju’ match
To be fair, political tensions rarely spill over to court or the pitch; only raw rivalry from neighbours who badly want to beat each other.
The memory that sticks fresh in Ugandan minds is the 2004 Afcon qualifiers when Rwanda beat Uganda 1-0 at Namboole a year before, Jimmy Gatete settling that ‘juju’ match.
Some Ugandan players had complained that the reason they were not scoring was because the Rwandan goalkeeper had placed a fetish or magic, locally called juju, in his goal.
Abubaker Tabula eventually evaded the goalkeeper and snatched the alleged ‘juju’ and the ensuing spectacle was an embarrassment to behold.
Rwandan players chased after the Ugandan, plucking off pieces of his shirt. Rwanda eventually qualified for Tunisia 2004 Afcon finals.
Several encounters between the two countries have since happened, but not to the magnitude of the aforementioned.
The last major competition, in which Uganda beat Rwanda to win a title, was the final of the 2015 Cecafa.
Current Cranes coach Johnny McKinstry was in charge of Rwanda for that one. So you have the former Amavubi man leading a group of players who know the Rwandans and their game.
To be fair, they both know each other, the reason this becomes a tricky encounter. Defeat for any does not necessarily spell doom but with Togo and Chan defending champions Morocco laying in wait, and group progression at stake, none will want to lose this.
Cranes Chap preparation sets possible starting XI
The Cranes had an impressive build-up, drawing 1-1 with Cameroon, beating Zambia and Niger 2-0 and 3-0, respectively.
Winger Milton Karisa scored three of the goals, and is favourite to start on the right midfield, with Viane Sekajugo at the opposite wing.
Striker Brian Aheebwa is favourite to lead the line, with Bright Anukani or Joachim Ojera likely to play behind the former as a 10.
Tonny Mawejje’s calming experience might be favoured by McKinstry in front of the back four, with Saidi Kyeyune and Karim Watambala or Bright Anukani ahead of him.
Skipper Halid Lwaliwa is likely to partner Paul Mbowa in central defence, with experienced Denis Iguma at right back and youngster Aziz Kayondo at left back. Charles Lukwago is a strong favourite to mind the goal.
Chan 2020 (PP to 2021)
TODAY | 10PM LIVE ON RWANDA TV
Uganda vs. Rwanda
SATURDAY GROUP A RESULTS
Cameroon 1-0 Zimbabwe
Mali 1-0 Burkina Faso