Why Cranes’ Afcon Campaign Is A Success
By Ssekamatte Allan Mabiriizi Simonsen
Treat Sebastian Desabre’s resignation from his Cranes coaching role within hours of Uganda’s elimination from the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations as an isolated football by the way on the country’s otherwise successful continental odyssey.
His new employers – Tunisian giants Pyramids were one of several clubs impressed by Uganda’s obvious improvement from a cagey, hesitant, determined opponent in Gabon 2017, to an expansive, exuberant but limited force at Egypt 2019. Limited by what? By our own talent deficit. The Frenchman must therefore believe he’s taken the Cranes as far as he could.
Averted players’ strike:
Disregard the quickly resolved near players’ mutiny before their knock out tie with Senegal as well. The rapidity with which their outstanding bonuses were dispatched from Kampala is testimony to improvement in the country’s managerial modus operandi.
In yesteryear, the players could have laid down the tools, or underperformed against the Lions of Terranga just to prove a point. Instead, they gave two hundred percent. Of course we all preferred that Cranes’ campaign ends without a hitch.
But that wouldn’t be an accurate reflection of our national psyche which has for decades entailed coaxing for everything in a give and take manner needed to jump start all but a handful of lords passing off as public servants.
As was the case with his predecessor Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevich, who left for South African powerhouses Orlando Pirates, Desabre was within his rights to seek greener pastures. Except, this time there were no histrionics that followed Micho’s departure without three months in salary arrears.
A terse statement from Fufa highlighting how his contract had been terminated by mutual consent sufficed. We mustn’t begrudge these coaches for using the Cranes as a platform for furtherance of their careers. They are all excelling in difficult circumstances. Their poaching proves Fufa’s technical committee are doing a stellar job on the recruitment front.
UG-based players shine:
On the pitch itself, there was so much to learn. First off, the performances of Uganda Super League stars Patrick Kaddu, Timothy Awany and Allan Kyambadde proved that coaches needn’t always look overseas for players. Kaddu kept his immediate forebearers at KCCA Derrick Nsibambi and Mohammad Shaban out of the squad whereas Awany did better than Sweden based Patrick Mukiibi in demonstrating that he can step into the boots of ageing warhorse Hassan Mawanda Wasswa, who is now without a club. But by far the biggest revelation was Syrianska wide man Abdu Lumala, whose pace and enthusiasm should see him trade the Swedish second division for one of Europe’s elite leagues.
Cut average age of team:
Desabre deserves plaudits for handing competitive debuts to three players during Egypt 2019. The willingness to risk failure is a key tenet of good leadership, and the French tactician demonstrated that by giving Bevis Mugabi, Robert Mukiibi and Lumala adequate playing time.
His successor must now cut the team’s average age as a way of increasing it’s competitiveness. While there are many golden oldies who’ve excelled during Egypt 2019, the benefits of fielding a young, mobile, workaholic outfit unfazed by baggage of previous failures can’t be overstated.
Fufa’s technical committee must, as a policy priority, require Desabre’s successor to field at least one under 21 player in Cameroon 2021. For example, handing 19-year-old KCCA starlet Allan Okello a wildcard to Egypt could have been the preparation he needs to shine in the next Afcon.
Madagascar an example to emulate:
Afcon record scorer and multiple titlist Samuel Etoo was charitable to Uganda when he said the Cranes are the continent’s most improved team. Etoo clearly didn’t watch enough of Madagascar.
The Cranes were Africa’s most improved in 2017 when they were voted by the Confederation of African Football as the continent’s team of the year. This year’s prize must be preserved for Madagascar. Perhaps taking leaf from the ascendancy of one of their own – Dr Ahmed Ahmed to the position of Caf president, the islanders have taken on field football organisation to a new apex with the best and most malleable team structure.
Desabre’s successor must borrow notes from Malagasy boss Michael Dupuis on how to populate the entire pitch with bodies deployed in a self contained 3-6-1 formation that morphs into a 5-3-2, 3-4-3, 4-3-2-1 and even 5-4-1 during various levels of games.
Overall, Cranes’ Afcon campaign was satisfactory if not spectacular. Whereas it remains to be seen whether the national team will be graded higher than the thirteenth position they achieved in Gabon 2017, the building blocks for a successful future like a month-long training camp in Abu Dhabi, hefty performance based bonuses, fearless attacking football and the careful handling of the fallout from Desabre’s departure are evidence for all and sundry that Uganda is firmly on an upward football projectile.