9 July 2008

Uganda: Seeking Green Pastures


Two years ago when national football coach Csaba Lazlo', 44, was being unveiled to the media at Mengo, FUFA pulled all the stops to ensure that questions that would prick their balloon weren't asked.

One question, though, did manage to elude FUFA's sieve. Csaba was asked about that infamous 2004 UEFA Cup duel between Hungary's Ferencvárosi TC and Scottish outfit Hearts where the Hungarian-German not only had an altercation with his opposite number John Robertson, but bellowed to his charges to "break their (Hearts players') legs."

Judging from Csaba's body language, one could tell that this was an incident the Hungarian-German didn't want to revisit. He tried - implausibly - to put the matter to bed until FUFA spokesman Rogers Mulindwa came to his rescue.

So, you must understand the shock Rogers Mulindwa and his FUFA mates were in when it was unveiled in black and white that Csaba is flirting with going back to a place that evokes such terrible memories. Hearts that is. The 44-year-old was booed off Tynecastle Stadium - Hearts' home ground - and his 'break their legs' sound-bite made him persona non grata in Edinburgh.

How times change, though! Enter multi-millionaire Vladimir Romanov. The controversial Russian-Lithuanian dangled a juicy carrot before Hearts in 2004 when the Scottish club was in all sorts of financial problems. Romanov would take control of the club by 2005. But with his wealth came the clichéd carrot-stick situation.

Six managerial changes during his four-year spell at Tynecastle have given Romanov something of a hatchet man cloak. But he is a good friend of Csaba's. A good friend so much that Csaba oozed confidence after chatting with the trigger-happy Romanov about taking up Hearts' coaching reins after the Hungarian-German recently made a stopover in Europe (courtesy of - presumably - one of the three business-class tickets that FUFA gives him for holidaying purposes each year).

So, should FUFA be crying? Should they throw a tirade at their man? No. They shouldn't do either not just because it was just a few weeks back that they wanted to sever ties with the Hungarian-German after lame-duck displays against mighty (you wish!) Tanzania and Niger.

A champagne bottle should be uncorked by the men at Mengo if Csaba decides to join - as he claims - any of the three suitors courting him. Why? Because if Csaba was to stay put and wrap up his contract with FUFA in 2010 a mind-boggling Shs 600m (or thereabout) would have been spent to keep in place an ageing national team.

Csaba would have continued not watching the local league and repeatedly frowned at the idea of putting up youth structures to unearth the next Ibrahim Sekagya. In between all this, the 44-year-old tactician would continue being a prominent face at Kampala's social events that attract a Who's-Who list.

If Csaba does decide to pack his bags and leave, we shall miss his touchline demeanour (kicking out at a mineral water bottle), pre-match edginess (visiting the loo - for a short call, please - umpteen times before kick-off) and Gucci suits.

What we shall not miss are the threadbare footballing tenets - à la his stubborn refusal to build from the grassroots and preference for short-term goals as opposed to the long-term ones. Was that a good riddance I heard?

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