Geoffrey Massa @ SS com
Geoffrey Massa @ SS com

Underwhelming year for Uganda

Uganda’s football yet again endured politics of intrigue and sabotage, with the league fracas remaining as filthy and the national football team retaining the ‘nearly men’ tag.

For the umpteenth time, Uganda were close to ending a 37-year painstaking absence from the continent’s soccer high table.

Yet ‘close’ only remained the catch-word as the Cranes flattered to deceive - capitulating in the qualification to the 2015 Equatorial Guinea Africa Nations Cup of Nations.

After yet another failed 2013 Afcon qualification campaign, the 2015 edition was upon us. This time though, the Cranes were to play 10 matches instead of the usual six when they have started in group stages.

The matches included four in the preliminaries and the other six in the group in the event Uganda went past Madagascar and Mauritania, which coach Micho Sredojevic’s men duly did.

The long voyage which convinced most that this was indeed it, started on a nervous note away to Madagascar in May.

Preliminaries, second round

Madagascar 2-1 Uganda (May 18, 2014)

Madagascar could have easily gone into half time leading 4-0 had it not been for stand-in goalkeeper Ismail Wateng’s heroics. Fabrice Augio Rakotondraibe and Njiva Rakotoharimala had given the hosts a 2-0 lead inside just 29 minutes. It took a Hamis Kiiza last minute penalty to give Uganda a lifeline ahead of the return leg.

Uganda 1-0 Madagascar (May 31, 2014)

Aggregate: 2-2. Uganda progressed on away goals rule

Uganda labored to a 1-0 victory in Kampala and it could have been worse had it not been for Dennis Onyango’s one-on-one saves. Geoffrey Massa scored the all-important goal for Uganda.

Final preliminary round

Uganda 2-0 Mauritania (July 19, 2014)

After a forgettable first half, Micho made a half time substitution that would see the Cranes get going. Brian Majwega replaced Kizito Luwagga and the then KCC winger immediately repaid the coach’s faith by opening the scoring with his weaker right foot. Massa added the other to take a 2-0 advantage to Mauritania.

Mauritania 0-1 Uganda (August 3, 2014)

Uganda needed just to avoid defeat to progress to the group stage, where four-time African champions Ghana, Togo and Guinea lurked in Group E. But URA striker Robert Ssentongo instead scored late to ensure a 3-0 aggregate score.

Group stages, Pool E

Ghana 1-1 Uganda (September 6, 2014)

Few gave Uganda a chance, here. But with Ghana’s Black Stars still in disarray over the bonus-debris from the Brazil World Cup, the Cranes counted their chances.

The visitors survived early Ghana bombardment, with Onyango standing tallest in goal. But against the run of play, Cranes midfielder Tonny Mawejje received a delicious ball from Kizito Luwagga before turning his markers to put the Cranes ahead. Andre Ayew levelled through a controversial penalty.

Uganda 2-0 Guinea (September 10, 2014)

Uganda won this one but is Massa’s blinder of two well-taken goals and Onyango’s three one-on-one saves that fashioned it. The more technically gifted visitors (Soumah Seydouba comes to mind) had more possession and more clear-cut chances but it is what kisses the inside of the net that counts. The result sprung renewed hope across the country as Uganda took table leadership with four points from two games.

End of home unbeaten record

Uganda 0-1 Togo (October 11, 2014)

This is where the whole dream developed cracks, if not ended. Having been the last team to beat Uganda at Nakivubo Stadium in the 2002 Afcon qualifiers, Togo were - as if - in town in time to end Uganda’s 10-year unbeaten home record at Namboole Stadium. Donou Kokou’s 30-minute goal ensured the end of the record.

South Africa had hitherto been the last team to win (1-0) at Namboole - in 2004. For a team whose qualification heavily depended on home results to qualify, this result hurt the camel’s back.

Togo 1-0 Uganda (October 15, 2014)

Togo defender Serge Akakpo completed the back-to-back defeats for Uganda on 69 minutes when he headed past Onyango from a free-kick. With Ghana the next tie at Namboole; the picture looked grim for the Cranes.

Uganda 1-0 Ghana (November 15, 2014)

Somehow, Uganda seem to have Ghana’s number. The Cranes regrouped after the back-to-back defeats to Togo. Micho’s men had to beat Ghana or they were out. They put up a professional performance with SCVU defender Savio Kabugo heading in a nine-minute winner against the same opposition he had made his senior debut against in Kumasi.

The dream was back on. Just. All Uganda had to do was draw with Guinea in Casablanca in Morocco and we were in Equatorial Guinea.

The final capitulation

Guinea 2-0 Uganda (November 19, 2014)

Uganda’s temperament in pressure and decisive games had never inspired courage, anyway. Although the Cranes needed just a draw to qualify, history in similar situations never backed them. That the game was away in West Africa hardly helped matters. Guinea comprehensively dominated proceedings but their work was made easier by Andy Mwesigwa’s atrocious defending, the Cranes skipper being at fault for both Ibrahima Traore and Soumah Seydouba’s goals.

Chan, January-February, 2014

Before the senior Cranes embarked on the 2015 campaign, the home-based stars had their own Cup of Nations to contend with. Uganda’s main aim in South Africa was to better their last (2009) appearance at the African Nations Championship (Chan) in Sudan where they lost all group games, scoring just once.

They did exactly that, winning one game, drawing another and losing the final group match to Morocco. It is here that striker Yunus Sentamu announced his arrival, scoring all Uganda’s three goals.

Uganda bowed out in the group stage but Ssentamu had done enough to attract DRC club AS Vita. This was also the year where the under 17 national side put up impressive displays in the Africa youth qualifiers, sweeping Seychelles and Rwanda before succumbing to Zambia.

The national elite league

Following two seasons of no sponsorship and two leagues (although the USL one ran out of steam in their second year), reality sunk in as majority of the clubs in the break-away Fufa Super League (FSL) struggled to pay players’ wages.

But with Fufa president Moses Magogo preaching reconciliation, an MoU was signed early in 2014 between himself on behalf of Fufa and USL chairman Kavuma Kabenge. The two-year understanding, which entered SuperSport (who signed a five-year $5m deal with USL in 2011) as partners, was to see the South African broadcasters disburse funds to USL, who would in turn pay clubs, match officials and Fufa through the federation.

For the first time in three years one league, under the name Uganda Premier League (UPL) as agreed by Fufa and USL, kicked off. But there were some barricades.

With two of the 16 topflight clubs refusing to sign the deed of adherence - SuperSport’s minimum standards expected of clubs before live televising of games can resume, there was a stand-off. Vipers and SC Victoria University are the two clubs that had by the close of the year refused to sign the deed. They claim Magogo dealing with Kabenge – the man Fufa had banned in one of their underhand machinations during Lawrence Mulindwa’s regime, and USL getting more money in commissions than clubs are some of their grievances.

It is worth-noting that Vipers are funded by former Fufa head Mulindwa, who has since fallen out with Mogogo, while SCVU is owned by Serbian Simo Dubajic, who has since shared a close relationship with the Mulindwa camp. With some individuals in certain clubs moving about with one or two other TV stations claiming they will broadcast the league, whose TV rights were already sold to SuperSport, one can only hope our football administrators have their thinking heads on.

KCC, SCVU wanting on continent

It was not an overly bad year for KCC and SCVU. KCC won their second successive league title under coach George ‘Best’ Nsimbe in the two contentious seasons. SCVU claimed the Uganda Cup under Morley Byekwaso one season after promotion. KCC went on to represent in the Caf Champions League as SCVU made their continental debut in the Confederations Cup.

Mainly seen as a learning curve for them, SCVU were eliminated by the DRC’s Don Bosco in the preliminaries in February. KCC eliminated Sudan’s El Merreikh, beating them home and away but succumbed to Zambia’s Nkana Red Devils in the first round.

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