Current cohort of Cranes players would do well to borrow leaf from Sekagya, Batabaire

Author: Robert Madoi is a sports journalist and analyst. PHOTO/FILE/NMG.

What you need to know:

  • Moses Waiswa joins other prized assets in returning home with tail between legs.

The silly season in Uganda bears little resemblance to its predecessor. Ditto the done transfer deals. Previously, the completed deals that dominated life at the upper end of the stack (take when Hassan Mubiru swapped the blue hue of SC Villa for Express FC’s bright red) would be greeted with great fanfare offline. Nowadays, the fanfare rattles along with terrific energy online.

The considerable ingenuity (by Uganda’s standards) around an ad that announced the arrival of midfielder Moses Waiswa to KCCA this past week lent it a certain charm. Warmly received by fans of the Garbage Collectors on Facebook, the ad found an even wider reach on Twitter. 

Its relative success, however, belies an ugly truth. Along with Abdu Lumala and Faruku Miya, Waiswa has joined other Ugandan football prized assets in returning home with tail tucked firmly between their legs.

The professional career of a great deal of other Ugandan players has the potential to be staggeringly anticlimactic. If it wasn’t clear, it is now! Undercooked Ugandans who pay no heed to the paid ranks’ ruthless creed will continue to come unstuck.

It wasn’t so long ago when the Cranes under the stewardship of Sébastien Desabre made a splash at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt. Soon, football outfits from MENA (Middle East/North Africa) countries became amenable to adding Ugandan players to their rosters (who would have thought!).

The likes of Patrick Kaddu, Emmanuel Okwi, Lumala, Murushid Juuko, Khalid Aucho, and Allan Kyambadde were all given the chance to audition for starring roles in the other half of the MENA. Only Kyambadde survived with few bruises.

Indeed, if Afcon 2019 inspired dreams of a lucrative future, the reality ran far behind. Why, one would hasten to ask! Lest we forget, this was not the first generation of Cranes players to tie their greatest fears and longings in one hapless knot. 

When the cohort of talented players that reached the semifinals of the 1999 All-Africa Games fell by the wayside, your columnist – heavy on questions and light on answers – sounded Ibrahim Sekagya out. His answers were poignantly insightful.

The pains that Sekagya staked into his professional playing career’s making (he captained Red Bull Salzburg to a league and cup double during the 2011/2012 season!) are unimaginably deep. Unfathomable, even. I have documented them in a book that should see the light of day once a publisher is nailed down (wish me luck). 

But in a nutshell, Sekagya – who was warm, receptive and respectful as I researched the book – said, to go places, one ought to develop a thick skin. It sounds easy enough until you discover that he became a self-taught Spanish speaker while daring the Argentine great depression and a culture shock to do their worst.

Another former player whose longevity in the paid ranks offers a useful lens for the current generation of Cranes players is Timothy Batabaire. At the peak of his powers, Batabaire was a permanent fixture in South African top flight teams. It didn’t matter – he once admirably told me – that he wasn’t the most talented player of his generation. What mattered most is that he had the requisite mental fortitude and tenacity to walk into the midst of the storm and weather it.

Unfortunately, that sheer willpower to overcome adversities is conspicuous by its absence amongst today’s cohort of players. Such is their prima-donna behaviour that they are least comfortable with the idea of resilience. 

They would rather act on a whim, fancy and the misplaced certainty that tough times won’t come. News flash! They will! It’s about time the present mirrored the past, and I’m not talking about the flashiness of ads – online or offline!

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @robertmadoi