The story in the run-up to the 2016 African Nations Championship (Chan) was perfectly scripted and signed off in Rwanda four years ago. And when you look back, especially with Uganda - for umpteenth time - failing at the group stage hurdle, it remains that story.
Uganda Cranes forward Faruku Miya, a firing U-23 captain at the time, had almost exhausted headlines back home.
He was a one-stop centre for solutions at Vipers, helping them to a league title. He also never missed a headline in Uganda Cranes colours. The Cranes had easily qualified for the last two editions in Sudan and South Africa, so the 2016 version in Rwanda was almost a formality awaiting confirmation.
Charge to the finals
Miya led that charge, scoring the third in the 3-0 away victory over Tanzania in Zanzibar before the Cranes sealed progression into the first round 4-1 on aggregate. The final round of qualification presented Sudan, Uganda winning both legs home and away 2-0 for a 4-0 aggregate.
Miya plundered two of those goals to confirm Uganda’s third successive Chan finals. Uganda’s 2-1 victory over Burkina Faso in South Africa two years earlier was the country’s first.
They had to register one more in Rwanda - at the bare minimum - to register consistency or progress.
The real test
Mali, Zimbabwe and Zambia were the teams in Uganda’s way. Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic surely had to better South Africa’s showing! Joseph Ochaya gave Cranes an 11th minute lead before Mali levelled through Koita. Miya intervened, giving Uganda a 2-1 half time lead from the penalty spot but Sinayoko’s goal on the hour forced the Cranes to a draw.
With Zambia beating Zimbabwe 1-0 to top the table, the Cranes had to beat the Chipolopolo in their next game to increase their chances of progressing.
Zambian legend Christopher Katongo had other ideas, his only goal of the match condemning the Cranes to defeat. Now Uganda had to beat Zimbabwe in their final group game or they board the next plane back home.
It is Manondo who instead put Zimbabwe ahead on 49 minutes.
It took a Geoffrey Sserunkuma late leveller in the third minute of added time to get a point, but even that was not enough as Uganda crashed out - again!
The transfer tale
But amidst all this, some good news was brewing. Scouts had been allover the Cranes camp sniffing about Miya.
Cranes legend and former skipper Ibrahim Sekagya was in the Ugandan camp trying to help Red Bull Salzburg, his New York Redbulls sister club, secure Miya’s signature.
Miya’s form in the previous year and in the run-up to Chan finals had truly caught the attention of many.
Belgian giants Standard Liege had actually been smart enough to tie the loose ends in Kampala before Salzburg came sniffing.
As Miya was in Rwanda, his agent had finalised the deal in Kampala with Vipers, just waiting for the player to pen it.
Sekagya pulled all the strings in between to have the boy sign for Salzburg, promising him more security and incentives.
But it turned out it was a little too late as the Belgians took the day, paying Vipers Shs1.4b, money that started the big project that is St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende.
Although things did not work out as desired in Belgium, from where Miya got loaned from one club to another; the move provided the window that now has him playing well in Turkey with Konyaspor.
Could Chan 2020, being played in 2021 thanks to Coronavirus turbulence, sign off another Miya? Kick-off is Saturday.