By Fredrick Nadulli aka Razor,
The Cranes,Uganda’s national men’s football team,reigns supreme in the East and Central Africa region.They hold the record for most titles in the Cecafa senior challenge cup.Since time immemorial,they have ruled the regional roost with slight hiccups along the way.
Beyond the Great Lakes region though,they have been found wanting.Many a time,when it mattered most,they have fallen short of expectations,much to the chagrin of their football-mad public.
And reminiscent of rain clouds about to open up and shower the earth with torrents only to slither away,the Ugandans have a knack for tripping at the very last hurdle.
ALMOST DOESN’T COUNT
The last time Cranes graced the Africa cup of nations was in 1978.That time,they fell to the Black Stars of Ghana in the final.The continental showpiece has eluded them since then.
For a massive 36 years,their story has been one of coming ever so close,to the point of packing up their bags,only to unceremoniously unpack them and disperse.
It is not for lack of talent.
The country has produced generations of stars capable of matching their African peers man by man.Godfrey Kateregga,Paul Ssali and Freddy Mugisha represented the old order.Then followed the likes of Majidu Musisi,Adam Semugabi and Jackson Mayanja.
They paved the way for the likes of Hakim Magumba,Hassan Mubiru and latter day exponents like Ibrahim Sekajja.The list is endless.
In 2012,the Cranes were only a victory away from booking their place among the big boys in Equatorial Guinea/Gabon.Better still,their opponents were Kenya,easy pickings any time.To their bitter surprise,the Harambee Stars erected too high a wall for their nemesis to scale.It was heartbreak in Kampala,too sour to fathom.
This term,their adoring fans believed the ghosts were finally exorcised.Ten days ago the boys were sitting pretty at the top of their group,cruising without a care in the world.Two matches later,in Kampala and Lome,they lie third and in grave danger of slipping further down the abyss.The Hawks of Togo have tipped the scales.
It would be premature and improper to write off the Ugandans,but the reality on the ground paints a really gloomy picture.Ghana in Kampala will not be a walk in the park.Guinea away will be dicey,a potential banana skin.Micho and his team have boxed themselves into a real tight corner.
KEEP THE FAITH
Although they find themselves third,they are still alive and very much in it.The proverbial cat is still among the pigeons.African soccer has evolved,so much so that teams once considered weak can go away and notch up victories.Congo proved it when they descended upon Calabar and claimed Nigeria’s big scalp.
Uganda need to keep their focus and take a game at a time.With those two infamous slip-ups,there is no more room for error.National pride and patriotism dictates the boys must stand and be counted,for motherland and East Africa,the Ethiopians having melted away but came back with a stunning win away to Mali.