Timely rebirth for Uganda Cranes creative realm

Travis Mutyaba is expected to run the Cranes roulette. PHOTO/EDDIE CHICCO 

What you need to know:

For a while now, Ugandans have questioned the exact football identity attached to the national team and Fufa have always remained at crossroads and promise to act in their 'seven-year football master plan'. 

As the frantic fans buckle up for the thrilling battle with Algeria on Monday at Namboole, Uganda Cranes' array of midfield talent should be giving coach Paul Put some comfort ahead of the showdown. 

Look, the 68-year-old Belgian can afford a Plan A, B and C if the outcome of last night's clash with Botswana at Namboole doesn't serve him right. 

For a while now, Ugandans have questioned the exact football identity attached to the national team and Fufa have always remained at crossroads and promise to act in their 'seven-year football master plan'. 

There was understandable excitement when Put summoned almost all creative cogs at the Crane's disposal for the two World Cup qualifiers against Botswana and Algeria. 

Unlike predecessor Micho Sredojevic who often opted for grit in the midfield by preferring two or more physically endowed enforcers, Put prefers ball passers and creative wizards. 

He has empowered domestic players like Joel Ssekiganda (SC Villa), Joel Sserunjogi (KCCA) and Umar Lutalo (SC Villa) believe that they can dislodge hirthetho starters Khalid Aucho (Yanga) and Bobosi Byaruhanga (Austin FC). 

Gone are the days when Uganda vs. Algeria contest would be marred by the sharp contrasting fortunes in midfield and forever lopsided in the Magreb favour.

In most cases, the dreaded North Africans absolutely thrive with a wealth of star-studded options while Uganda would be far too laboured, overly-reliant on one man in particular - in most cases a striker.

Travis the diamond

Without doubt, Zamalek deft playmaker Travis Mutyaba is proving to be the star of the show in the heart of the Cranes' midfield at present and one saddled with the burden of conjuring magic. 

If  Put's men are to stun the lauded Algerians that are also missing Riyad Mahrez, then they will have the diminutive schemer to bank on, after all he is now getting used to playing against North Africans in Egypt. 

Few Ugandans, and East Africans at large, thrive in North Africa leagues but Mutyaba is penetrating into the Zamarek star-studded team and was part of the Car Confederation Cup success last month. 

In the Put era, Mutyaba has suddenly been in commanding form thanks to the license to roam granted to him by the aging gaffer. 

All said, he is starting to flourish thanks to the service around him thriving too with Put able to reintegrate Vipers Allan Okello, US based Ibrahim Kasule, SC Villa wonder kid Patrick Kakande and Lutalo into the attacking mix. 

The good feeling doesn't end at that, Put  is now blessed with predatory options upfront that can bury whatever the aforementioned playmakers can ferment in form of assists. 

It is now safer to say that Cranes now have a threat all over the middle of the park and the absence of a reliable goal poacher can be compensated with the enviable depth of strikers available - Fahad Bayo, Muhammad Shaban, Nelson Senkatuka, Denis Omedi and Steven Mukwala. 

It is hard to look past the pending midfield battle between Cranes and Algeria and with Put boasting an equivalent of an embarrassing amount of riches at his disposal in the heart of midfield, he can audaciously say, 'bring it on'. 

From USA with fire

The physical limitations aside, Kasule has the potential of lifting the creative burden off Mutyaba, if his New York Red Bulls II exploits is anything to go by. 

Under the guidance of former Cranes libero and skipper Ibrahim Sekagya, now the Red Bull coach, Kasule has created and scored goals in a possessed demeanour that couldn't skip Put's eye. 

Before the US sojourn, Kasule had used just six months to outperform all in the StarTimes Uganda Premier League and had insinuated that he reminded them of Hakim Magumba. 

Most fans are waiting with bated breath to see if Kakande can recreate the mojo he exuded in Villa's league winning season and whether he can cement a place in the national team. 

Allan Okello in training. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

Okello renews Algerian tale

Similarly, the jury is still out on the potential of  Allan Okello, from a gifted prodigy that promised a lot at KCCA, nearly flopped at Algerian giants Paradou and now enjoying a mini renaissance at Kitende. 

Many pundits believed he had the knack to offer Cranes what David Obua scripted but a catalogue of issues have connived to render him a peripheral player. 

Imagine the combination of Okello and Mutyaba, both of whom are not known for their free-flowing and creative football, teaming up to provide the engine and tempo in a sparkling midfield.

Put's rebuilding has centered around a formidable midfield that is continually demonstrating its importance in the general team flow. 

We can only hope for better.